Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Math in Focus

A few months ago, math was driving my daughter (and me) crazy! My seven year old daughter started in Horizons Math, but this year it was rubbing her the wrong way. She no longer liked math and was having a very hard time learning and understanding its concepts. I knew I had to change things! I have that fortunate opportunity as a homeschooler, so I began to pray and search. God sent the answer – at least for now. I ran into Math in Focus.


Math in Focus is “Singapore math for U.S. classrooms”. I had used some of Singapore’s Kindergarten math but didn’t really feel inclined to use the rest of their curriculum. I was aware, though, that Singapore Math had a good reputation. One concern I had read was that it didn’t apply as well to the U.S. since it came from Singapore. That problem seems to be somewhat resolved since Math in Focus is the U.S. Edition of Singapore Math.

The main aspect I like about Math in Focus is just that – it is focused. The curriculum focuses on one concept at a time, making it easier for my daughter to concentrate and understand the concepts. Each chapter centers around a particular topic, like addition, multiplication, length, volume, etc. For instance, in the 2nd grade book, there is a chapter on “Addition up to 1,000”. It covers four main lessons: addition without regrouping, addition with regrouping in ones, addition with regrouping in tens, and addition with regrouping in ones and tens. I usually cover one lesson per day, and it has worked very well for my daughter.

At the end of each chapter is a chapter review/test that is several pages long. With my daughter, I make it more of a review since she is young. There are also cumulative reviews and a mid-year review. The curriculum also provides plenty of other game ideas and activities for further reinforcement.

The student textbook is colorful but the workbook is not. That is a plus/minus situation. Sometimes my daughter likes that and sometimes she doesn’t. I did not buy the teacher’s edition for this year, but I know it is valuable for higher grades – makes checking problems so much quicker, for one!

In particular, if you have a child who is struggling in math, I would recommend Math in Focus. Check it out!

Saxon Homeschool sells Math in Focus Homeschool Bundles.

This post is linked to The Homeschool Curriculum Review Round-Up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Horizons Math

Right now I am using two different math curriculums in my home. Today I will review Horizons Math and tomorrow I will review Math in Focus.


When I was about to decide on a math curriculum for my firstborn son, I did a lot of research. Horizons Math was a more recent development in the math world but had great reviews.


Here is what I like about it:


*Varied, covering multiple topics per day

*Spiral learning – introduction, review, and reinforcement


The teacher’s edition is very helpful (but I do not use it for the first few grades). Lessons and tests can be graded quickly with the answer keys, and other instructional material – like objectives and extra worksheets – are inside as well.

I do tend to omit some of the problems because there are just too many of them sometimes! Math takes long enough as it is. If my students understand the material, I do not feel they have to be burdened with twaddle. Oftentimes, I will use motivators like: “Do the first half. If you get them all right, you’re done!”

My boys like Horizons Math, and I am excited because the company just came out with a Pre-Algebra course this year. Up until now, Horizons has only gone up through sixth grade.

This post is linked to The Homeschool Curriculum Review Round-Up.

Monday, March 28, 2011


For any of you who are interested, “Simple Mom” unveiled her fourth hotspot – the pantry and the refrigerator.  I’ve had my pantry on my mental “to do” list for months now… Maybe this will motivate me to get to it sooner!



In the mean time, you probably need a new recipe, especially since you are cleaning out your pantry and refrigerator!!!

The whole family liked this!  I used turkey sausage.  I would cut the sausage into smaller bits next time, but it was delicious!  Also, I made 1 1/2 times the recipe for a bigger portion.


Sausage Gravy

Taken from “A Cozy Kitchen (more detail and photos found there!)

2 frozen sausage patties
1 tablespoon olive oil (if using veggie sausage)
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Cook the frozen sausages in the skillet for about 5-10 minutes or long enough until they are warmed through and starting to brown on the outside. Break up the sausage into little bits. Remove from pan, leaving any drippings (if you used real sausage). If you used veggie sausage, add oil into the pan.

Whisk in flour and stir for 30 seconds to make a rue. Whisk in the milk. Once the flour is fully incorporated, add back in the sausage, pepper and salt to taste. The gravy should begin to thicken. When it’s thick and creamy, just pour over some fluffy buttermilk biscuits.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Orange Wax Polish –a great product!


Today I noticed dark black, smudgy spots on my kitchen table.  My daughter thought they came from a black, chalky crayon someone was using.  I tried to clean them off with a spray cleaner and a rag with no luck!  I remembered I had some wood polish in my cupboard.  I pulled it out and tried it.  The results were tremendous!

I had already wiped off half of the troubled area before I took this picture:


After cleaning the area with the orange wax and a rag…


You can see the black junk on the rag!

If you have table issues, try this wax.  It’s great!  I used a spray cleaner afterwards just to clean off any excess wax and give a better finish.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Evening Project

Tonight I finally finished working on de-cluttering the desk.  Well, at least for the most part!  Brian really pushed me to do it.  At dinner he said he would treat me to Dairy Queen if I finished.  When the kids heard that, they jumped on it, and the whole family wanted me to clean the desk.  In the end, I asked Brian to take the family to Dairy Queen so I could get a few moments’ peace and quiet to myself and start the project!

First, I must prepare you… Some of you will still want to be my friend after seeing this photo because it will make you feel good about the hotspots in your house.  Others of you will shun me, leave my blog, wonder why you were ever friends with me in the first place, and never speak to me again.  Nonetheless, here is how it looked before the clean-up process began.


The desk tends to be a hotspot in the house,

and I am continually trying to fix that!

The first thing I did was clear the surface and dust it with some spray and a rag.  I thought this would make me feel good and bring inspiration!



Then I divided all of the material into groups and piles:IMG_8090


To Do

To File

For Hubby







I put things in the laundry basket if they had to travel somewhere.

I came across beautiful things like this that warmed my heart and gave me more energy to work!



After all was said and done…

The desk now looks like this:


I’ve got some coupons in the tray next to the computer monitor.  In the holder next to it, three folders are housed thus far:  To Do, File, and For Hubby.  In front of the folders, lays my recent purchase – a simple, but so far efficient, organizer for myself.


I am feeling good!


A cluttered surface attracts more clutter, but a cleared surface magically stays clear.

(taken from “Steady Mom”)

I hope it’s true!  ~wink~

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tips from Other Blogs

The other day I read a helpful post on how to stand firm in your convictions and what you are doing as a family.

Check it out at “Life As Mom”.


Also, don’t forget …. “Simple Mom” reveals her third hotspot today: toys and kids’ clothes – something we have been working on lately ourselves!

Have a great week!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thinking of Japan

Photos taken from “The New York Times”

I have seen online that some bloggers have joined forces today to do a “Blogger’s Day of Silence” for Japan, and they are collecting donations.  With that notion in mind, I want to encourage you to consider sending financial support to Japan.  We are so blessed here in America, in our plush homes, with our gourmet food, cozy homes, and loved ones.  Think of those who have been through so much devastation and how it would be so beneficial and good for us to help.  Talk it over with your spouse… Pray about it… and give accordingly.

My heart and prayers go out to Japan!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum Review: Bob Jones English


As I mentioned in a previous post, I use First Language Lessons to teach first and second grade language. Once my oldest son hit third grade, I started using Bob Jones English (BJU Press).

What initially drew me to this curriculum is its combination of writing and grammar, alternately, throughout the book. I wanted to teach both of those skills and felt the variety would be good to keep the student motivated.

The book is easy to use. Each lesson starts with a small instructional part. Following that, there are guided practices on the first page and independent practices on the second page. With this layout, my son is able to do his English fairly independently at times – which is always helpful!


I purchase my English through Christian Liberty Press. It is more economical, basically because CLP produces its own teacher’s version for the book. Their teacher’s edition is compact and simple.

At this point, I am only planning to use Bob Jones English through 6th grade. I used the 9th grade level for my niece when we first took her in, and that turned me off from the higher grades. The 9th grade level was very tedious with little instruction, in my humble opinion.

My next review will cover mathematics. If you have any questions about the curriculum I am reviewing or curriculum, in general, leave a question here in the comments section or on my Facebook page. I will try to keep my eyes open for it!

This post is linked to The Homeschool Curriculum Review Round-Up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts About Spring Cleaning Projects


If you did not simplify your wardrobe with “Simple Mom”, but had all the best intentions in the world, or even a small inkling, don’t feel bad!  Let me encourage you with this:

You don’t have to follow a particular timeline.  I know it is easy to feel pressured by someone else’s project deadlines, but no one said you have to follow them.  Start the project when you can and finish at your pace.  Better late than never!

It is important to keep the needs of your home in mind.  My home life is very demanding, and I know that I can not always get to every idea or inspiration I see.  I must prioritize and use the ideas as fuel and tools, not as weights hanging over my head!

Be inspired!  Let others’ ideas about spring cleaning get you motivated to do what you need to do in *your* home.  Think about what would bless you most right now to declutter.

If necessary tackle your project in bits.  On Sunday I worked on my sons’ bedroom.  We couldn’t do it all at once, but we worked for about 20 to 30 minutes twice.  We still have more to do, but we are in progress!  Set the timer if it helps!  At least do something for a short amount of time.  Life does not always give us time for everything.  We have to make time for what we have to do.

Ask your husband what HE would like you to do.  Over the weekend, when I was talking to my husband about how I wanted to work on my closet, he said, “I guess I just need to start a blog.”  He knew I had gotten the closet idea from a blog I read; he had his own desires about what he would like done in the house.  I realized that I should be checking in with my husband to see if there is anything he would like for me to focus on first!

Remember – anything you do to spruce up

your home will be a blessing to you and others!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Cleaning–Reminder and Report

Reminder to check in with “Simple Mom”

today for Hotspot #2 – paper clutter!

I am curious if any of you tackled “Simple Mom’s” challenge last week of cleaning out your wardrobe.  If you did, I want to hear about it.  Leave a comment and a link to your blog, if relevant.

My week was hectic, as always, but I was determined to try to work on my wardrobe.  I had actually weeded things out mostly, recently, but my closet still needed some work. 

I was only able to tackle the hanging items, the floor, and the shoes.  I did it swiftly and still found great reward.  Even my husband said, “The closet looks great, hun” – and that is without cleaning it entirely.  Remember – a little goes a long way!  Do what you can do!






Before:  The floor needed attention!

My shoes were in disarray.

Items were not in any specific order.













After:  The floor and shoes are tidy.

I sorted my clothing items according to color and season.






I still have to get to the shelves above, which I haven’t even shown you yet – gulp!  Hopefully this week.  ~smile~

Tomorrow, I will post some encouraging words about spring cleaning and simplifying in general.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum Review: First Language Lessons


I started using First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise years ago with my firstborn. I was interested in using an oral approach to language at the time and discovered this book. The curriculum is engaging, interactive, instructional, and varied. It includes aspects of the classical education mindset such as: oral narration, copywork, memorization, and picture study.

Levels 1 and 2, which are included in this book, are good for the first and second grades. I actually lumped my first and second graders together this year, so I didn’t have to teach this curriculum two years in a row. We are just finishing first grade and will probably finish the second grade level before autumn. Note: I did notice that the levels are now split, so you have to buy the grades separately. There are also levels for higher grades, through grade five.

The only down side to this curriculum is that there are times when I have felt it is too repetitive or boring. When I come to a spot like that, I just lump lessons together or skip something. Remember this is curriculum – a tool for your good use!

This post is linked to The Homeschool Curriculum Review Round-Up.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just a Reminder–Spring Cleaning

Just a reminder that today “Simple Mom” started the five week, spring cleaning, hot spot project. 

Check it out… this week’s hot spot – the wardrobe!

Even if you don’t follow all of the challenge, it might motivate you to get some extras done around the house that you weren’t originally planning to tackle!

Time for a Recipe! Chicken Tacos!


I created this taco recipe last month.  It’s a keeper!

Chicken Tacos

3 chicken breast halves, cooked and diced or shredded

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 t cumin

1 t paprika

1/2-1 t chili powder, depending on how hot you like it and how hot your chili powder is!

1/2 t salt

pinch cayenne pepper

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup salsa

*optional – diced fresh pineapple

Saute the green pepper, red pepper, onion, garlic clove, and chicken in a bit of oil on medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender.  Add seasonings, water, and salsa and cook on medium heat about 5 to 10 minutes longer, until meat is nice and flavored throughout.  If desired, add diced fresh pineapple for a sweet, mysterious punch!

Serve in soft tortilla shells (or hard taco shells if you prefer) and layer with toppings:  cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream and whatever else your heart desires!

As always, enjoy!  ~smile~

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Interior Decorator


Some of you will think I am crazy, but for a while now I have been dreading this day – a day my husband had planned with much reservation on my part.  Today was the day we had a meeting with an interior decorator, an opportunity most people would greatly appreciate.  We are wanting to remodel our family room, and with its awkward layout, we felt it would be good to get others’ opinions.  We’ve thought that for years now, but finally, I had started to get things settled in my brain – a picture of what I would do and what my family room would look like in the end.  I worried that this mysterious woman would come into my home and shatter every good thought I had.  I worried that I would feel somewhat put off as the homemaker of my home.

The woman entered and seemed very pleasant.  After much discussion and interaction, she proposed many ideas.  Most of her ideas were actually very good.  I did have a somewhat subdued struggle inside of me, as I tried not to feel inferior or pushed aside.  In the end, though, the meeting went very well.  The woman expressed that she was here to help us have thoughtful lives and to work with us rather than against us. 

As I walk away from today’s encounter, I encourage myself to take more chances in life and most of all, yet again:  learn to trust my husband. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Seeing the “Simple” as Superb


My daughter took this photo.

Tonight I had a date with my young daughters.  My niece was at her basketball game, and the men of the house were bonding with other men and boys at a church game night.  My daughter and I had fun together eating dinner, making S’Mores with chocolate chip cookies, playing “Cooking Mama” on the Wii, supervising the baby, and tying up the night with a blazing fire and an episode of “The Waltons”. 

The episode of “The Waltons” was touching and meaningful.  The mother was celebrating a birthday.  She was distraught over the day, feeling like she was losing her youth and seemed to be hitting a bit of a mid-life crisis.  She said to her husband, “Who would I be without you and the kids?”  She was definitely struggling, trying to embrace who she was as a person – after all, she was “just” a wife, mother, and homemaker – nothing glamorous. 

John-Boy’s birthday present brought the episode around full-fold and helped his mom embrace the day and her calling in life.  He had decided to read a poem to his mother as a gift.  John-Boy found his mother sitting alone outside and orated “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Throughout the movie, Olivia had been preoccupied with an airplane and its splendor.  The discovered poem spoke of a Falcon and its grandeur.  

The Windhover


To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-

    dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

    As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here

Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion

Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

When he had finished reading the  poem, John-Boy’s mother expressed that the poem seemed like a mystery to her but it was so beautiful, “Like listening to music”.   He explained its meaning to her, that the simple things in life are really such wonderful things.  It was not said plainly, but the viewer got the message:  Olivia’s life as a mom and homemaker was one of  great worth!  John-Boy was reassuring his mother that she should think of her “simple” life as one of splendor! 

In our culture, it is easy to feel discouraged at times, wondering if what we are doing really matters… wondering if we are doing ourselves a disservice by being “cooped” up in our homes… wondering if we should be using our minds and hearts for more nobler purposes.

Remember this women, wives,

mothers, and homemakers…

What you are doing is one of the most superb things in the world!  You are building homes, building lives, building societies and futures!

The home is the training ground and

refuge for all souls. 

Your “simple” life is one of grandeur!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oops on Spring Cleaning!

Yesterday I posted that “Life as Mom” blog is hosting a spring cleaning project starting next Monday, but it is actually “Simple Mom” that is hosting it.  The initial blog just made reference to the project.  My nursing baby-interrupted sleep is catching up with me and causing brain fog!  I did fix the info. in my post but wanted to clarify things again for anyone who missed it!

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spring Cleaning Motivation!

With it being March 1, many of us start thinking about spring.  Then we, inevitably, think of “Spring Cleaning”, right?!  Well, if you haven’t thought about it, now is the time to get your mind in gear.  We’ve had some bright, sunshine-y, blue sky days recently, and they have energized me!  My mind is finally starting to “think spring” and yes, think about spring cleaning.

If you need some extra motivation, “Simple Mom” blog is hosting a five-week spring cleanup session, beginning next Monday.  Check it out…

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

There Will Be Fruit

I really, probably, shouldn’t be blogging right at this moment.  I’ve got to leave for piano lessons in an hour and a half, if Brian can’t make it home by then, which is looking like it will be the truth!  I also have plenty other things I could do:  work on some laundry, make dinner, make food for the baby, make sure Ava isn’t eating anything mysterious on the floor, finish some school subjects, and whatever else comes along!  However, as I have said before, “blogging is therapy” and sometimes, you just feel better after you have blogged and emptied your noggin a bit.  Therefore, here I am!

I have been evaluating and trying to improve my life constantly.  Within the past few years, my life has become exponentially more demanding.  Through it all God is teaching me to take life “day by day”.  There are times when I feel pretty discouraged and worn out, but there are also times when I feel strengthened to plunge ahead and keep going!

Something happened within the past couple days that encouraged my heart, and I thought I would share it with you.  My nine year old son started writing a story, on his own initiative, and he is excited about it.


This is a huge deal because my son does not like to write. Whenever he has to do a writing assignment, it is torture for him to get through the process usually.  Once he is done, he does see and feel the reward, but it takes him a long time to get there.  Even to sit down and write a few sentences about something he reads can be grueling.  However, I did not give up!  I continued to give him assignments and work with him, knowing that some day – hopefully – this would get easier.

Seeing him excited to write his story has blessed my heart tremendously.  I was reminded of how things can be so difficult, but in the end, you will see fruit!  A farmer must do a lot of work to see a crop succeed!  There is soil preparation, planting, tender care of the young plants, watering, weeding, and waiting involved!  The farmer could get very discouraged waiting to see the fruit that will yield on his plants and decide to tear them all down or worse yet, never even start the process.  May we not be that way.  May we be encouraged to press on… persevere… endure… keep refining… simplify… and pour into our home and families so we may see FRUIT some day!

May God’s blessing be with you this week as you press on in His will for your life!