October 24, 2014

Verse for the Year 2014-2015

I'm blessed to be in a Bible study this fall and we're covering 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. It is absolutely wonderful and even though I'm drop-dead exhausted at the end of every day, I make time to work on my study even if that means I do all of it on the weekends. It is so worth it to me!

That said, I found a new favorite verse in 1 Thessalonians and I've decided it will be my verse for the school year. I'm posting it on the walls so I can see it as a continual reminder of my goal and aim this year.

1 Thessalonians 1:3
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • This homeschool thing is a work of faith. It's terrifying to think that I am responsible for the lives and education of my 5 little people. I'm stepping out in faith and choosing to homeschool because we believe that it is our current calling upon our family. But it's work, oh is it a lot of work!

  • Home educating your children is a labor of love. Many days I don't love it but I love my children and that is what prompts me to continue. I need this reminder that the motivating factor is love. I want to show that love to my children and live out that love as a continual reminder of God's love for them.

  • Homeschooling is an act of endurance. How many times have I wanted to give up? Many! And we're only up to 3rd grade right now. I have to persevere because I have hope that God will work through me.  I have hope that my children will grow into the people that God has called them to be. I have hope that God is guiding our future.

This verse reminds me of the 3 things that will be remembered about me-my faith in Christ, my love toward others, and an endurance of hope.

October 23, 2014

{Review} Diary of a Real Payne - Oh Baby

We've had the wonderful opportunity to review the previous two books in this series, True Story and Church Camp Chaos. To say we loved them would be an understatement. This week we finished off the third book in the series, Diary of a Real Payne: Oh Baby, and I must say that it was my favorite so far.

Diary of a Real Payne is a book about a young girl Emma Jean Payne (or EJ) who has an overactive imagination that often gets her into difficult (and usually hilarious) situations. The reader is given an inside glimpse into her daydreams and creative musings throughout the book.

Each chapter begins with a diary entry written by EJ and then the chapter describes the details mentioned in the diary. Throughout the story, EJ lapses into her own world of daydreaming and the reader is pulled along for the ride.

In this third book, Oh Baby, EJ's family has recently adopted a baby named Faith who adds lots of noise, chaos, and smiles in the Payne household. EJ must navigate life as a big sister to two younger siblings as well as deal with the other adventures of a 5th grader in small-town Wisconsin. EJ attends dog training classes, becomes a certified babysitter, has her first babysitting experience, and participates in the wedding of two of her neighbors.

The book focuses on the family life and Christian values of the Payne family. EJ learns lessons in treating others well, being responsible, and loving others-and this includes her sometimes annoying younger brother.

What did we think?
This book was for Curly age 8. She's read the other books in the series and was looking forward to the next adventures of EJ. These books have been perfect for her reading level (in the age 7-12 range).

I read the book before handing it over to Curly who was eagerly waiting for me to finish. I don't normally enjoy reading some of the books geared for young children, but this book was a definite exception. As I was reading I found myself laughing out loud at the story. The description of the babysitter training course with the robot babies was especially funny as was EJ's little brother's zany superhero outfit at the swimming pool. I also found myself enjoying the sweet and poignant family moments, especially between EJ and her younger brother. It was the perfect mix of fun, creativity, hilarity, and Christian values that made this book a permanent addition to our bookshelf.

After hearing me giggle over this book, Curly was only too happy to snatch it from me when I finished. She's now enjoying the book herself and I can hear her giggling away as she reads about EJ's many mishaps.

We have loved this series for promoting family values but also delivering a story that is entertaining, uplifting, and hilariously funny. We can't wait to see what is next from this author!

You can purchase this book from Barbour Publishing for $4.99.

October 22, 2014

Why I Decided Not to Reapply for the Homeschool Crew

Earlier this week I wrote about a difficult decision that I made recently. I decided not to reapply for the Homeschool Review Crew. 

The application for current crew members was just closed. I filled out my form to notify everyone that I won't be back. It was an emotional decision and I'm still doubting myself at times. While I feel sad about saying no to another year with the crew, I think I've made the right decision for me and my family.

Here's what I loved about the crew:

Curriculum - Can you really argue with free curricula? I received so many wonderful products. Many of them were new to me. I felt consistently blessed to open boxes of excellent learning material. There were so many products that I would never have chosen on my own that we ended up loving. There were others that were not in the budget for our year, but that we were blessed to be able to use.

Commarderie - Through being on the crew I got to connect with so many wonderful bloggers. I was a part of a wonderful blogging community of homeschool moms who were willing to share their wisdom and their tech savvy blogging tips. I was encouraged and challenged through their stories and their advice. Chatting with them on our private forum and following their blogs inspired me.

Consistency - Being on the crew helped me build my blog and blog with greater consistency. I blogged because I simply had to as one of the requirements. But as I kept in touch with other bloggers, I was challenged to keep writing. I appreciated the high standards and the desire for consistent bloggers.

Community - Through being a part of the crew my blog has grown exponentially. I know that I could not have done this on my own. It was only through the community of wonderful bloggers who shared blog articles on social media, consistently read my blog, and commented on my various posts that my blog felt a part of a larger community of bloggers and received greater exposure.

I will greatly miss all of the above things but here's why I didn't reapply:

Disruptions - While I love trying new curricula, I've found that our year is very, very full. Over the past few years I have found curricula that I love and that is a good fit for our family. I'm happy to stick with these programs for now. I have started to view the crew curricula as disruptions to our busy homeschool day. I've begun to feel stressed trying to find a way and a time to fit in the new programs. Sometimes it means that I have to put some of our regular work aside to try new things. Other times it means additional work on top of what we are already doing. I'm ready for freedom to use what we love and have no curricula interruptions in our school year (unless I deem a change necessary).

Deadlines - All of the reviews have deadlines. They've started to stress me out and make my blogging feel like more of a chore than a delight. Some nights I am up late against a deadline. Other times, family issues come up and leave me scrambling to write a detailed review. After a long day of homeschooling and then cooking and cleaning and parenting and spending time with my hubby, I don't want to think about deadlines. I want freedom from stressful deadlines and I want to be in control of my own schedule again.

Direction - My priorities are shifting and I'm moving in a new direction. While I enjoy blogging I don't want it to be my main focus. I feel I need to put more time and more of myself into my relationship with my husband, kids, family, and friends. I just want to be more available and have time to enjoy new opportunities as they arise. I don't want to feel over-committed.

Development - Taking a break from the crew will hopefully give me some more time for personal development. I want to spend time reading and reading and reading. I want to dive deeply into learning with my kids and take off on some learning tangents of my own. I plan to stay active and involved in Bible studies and in church activities. I might even take some online workshops or participate in some free courses to enjoy some self-education. I have plans to help at many homeschool conventions in the upcoming year and I hope to be more active and involved in my husband's job opportunities. I simply want the time and availability to pursue my own interests and try some new things as a means of personal development.

So, there you have it. That's why I'm choosing to make some changes at Lextin. I'm looking forward to the extra time that I will fill with other pursuits. I'm also going to enjoy some social media breaks and just time to "be still" and enjoy the moments. While I loved my time on the crew and will miss everyone affiliated with the crew, my decision can be summed up in one word: simplify.

My last reviews will be posted in November and then I will no longer be a crew member. I will miss the crew community but will keep up with everyone on their blogs and hope to "see" you here at Lextin. This is my goodbye from the crew but I can't wait to see what the next year holds for all of us.

October 21, 2014

{Review Crew} Middlebury Interactive Languages

My kids love the challenge of learning a new language so we were excited to try a new-to-us language program called Middlebury Interactive Languages. We reviewed the Elementary Spanish 2: Grades 3-5 Spanish Courses.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

What is it?
Middlebury Interactive Languages offers foreign language learning opportunities that were designed by linguistic experts. The program uses technology to create an interactive immersion-style language learning experience for students.

They have language programs for students of all ages, from Kindergarten learners to high school students obtaining AP credit. They currently offer courses in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese.

We reviewed the second level of Spanish Courses for kids in grades 3-5. This program contains 45 lessons per semester. These lessons are divided into units which each have a theme and introduce different vocabulary and grammar concepts.
Middlebury recommends that a student work on the program 2-3 days per week at this level.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

We received six months of access which equates to an entire semester of language lessons for an elementary student.

All of the levels are self-paced so the student and teacher can determine what speed is right for each child. Lessons can also be completed more than once if further review and practice is needed. 

There is also an option to complete the course with a teacher who would provide feedback on the written assignments in the program. This is offered at an additional charge.

How did we use it?
This program was for Curly (grade 3). We were excited to try the second semester of the Spanish language course for grades 3-5. Curly has been practicing her Spanish and does know many basic vocabulary words and some simple verb forms. For this reason, I thought she would be up to the challenge of trying the second semester of course work.

She worked on the program 3 days per week, usually doing a new lesson each time. On a few days she repeated a previous lesson for extra practice. 

This program for grades 3-5 required the student to be somewhat familiar with grammar concepts and able to read both Spanish and English and be able to type responses into the program.

Curly was able to do most of her work independently. She only needed me for help on a few of the typing assignments when she needed to type in Spanish.

Each lesson had a variety of activities. There were videos in Spanish, words written in Spanish for the student to read and then record themselves speaking, short responses to type in Spanish, and other games and matching vocabulary activities.

What did we think?
The different units in the program focus around different myths or stories from the Spanish culture. All of my kids liked to gather around the computer and watch the videos of these stories (which were completely in Spanish).  These videos were some of our favorite parts. Through watching them several times my kids were able to pick up on many new vocabulary words.

In the different units, new vocabulary words are a key focus. However, there is also cultural information that my kids found interesting. 

Curly found that the program offered a wide variety of activities. There were games, places to match vocabulary words, and sections to record herself saying the Spanish words and phrases after listening to them read aloud. The program is colorful and fun and contains great review. I found that she was learning many new vocabulary words and retaining them through all the practice that she had in the program.

Some of the activities had Curly typing out a response in Spanish. She wrote short letters to people or wrote a response to something she read in the program. This was very challenging for her. When she was done with this section she clicked on the button at the top to signify that she was done and the program marked the assignment as complete. However, because we did not have the teacher option, there was no way to assess if Curly had done the assignment correctly. This part of the program was somewhat frustrating since there were a few assignments that truly needed feedback from an outside source who was more familiar with Spanish. 

The program also included places to write the Spanish words as part of spelling practice. This was very challenging for Curly as well. It was difficult for her to remember the Spanish vowel sounds in order to spell words properly. The program did encourage her to use proper accent marks but that was too much for her at this time.

Middlebury is multifaceted language learning in that it has the student speak, spell, hear, watch, read, and then compose original sentences and paragraphs in another language. This is wonderful practice. However, for a student who struggles with spelling, reading, or writing in English, it is hard to be challenged to do all of these skills in a new language. I appreciated that the program was about more than just acquisition of vocabulary words, but it was definitely a challenge to integrate all areas of learning into the lessons.

My wrap up!
Curly really enjoyed this program. However, some of the typing assignments were somewhat challenging for her (especially since I was not able to truly assess her understanding after reading them). Overall, she found the program to enhance her vocabulary and grammar skills in Spanish while still having fun and enjoying the wide variety of activities. 

More info....
The Spanish Course for Grades 3-5 is $119 per semester.

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October 20, 2014

A Few Changes

You might have noticed that my blog has been a little more quiet the past few weeks. I didn't plan to take a blog break. I went AWOL. Oh well....such is life.

But I thought I would post a little update about a few changes that are going on around here.

First let me rehash why I actually blog.

  • I blog first for me because I simply enjoy writing. I enjoy working through my thoughts, but I especially love making the pinnable images for each blog. That's my new favorite part of blogging.
  • I also blog with the hope that some of my ramblings, my inner thoughts, my curricula addiction, and my opinions might be helpful to someone else. I feel so blessed that I've been able to help others in their homeschool journey. I absolutely love connecting with other homeschool families and I am thrilled that my blog helps facilitate those connections.

Lately I've lost some motivation to blog. I haven't felt much like writing. My days are very long and blogging hasn't felt as much a priority. It's caused me to reevaluate, and I've made some difficult decisions.

I've decided not to reapply for the Homeschool Review Crew after this year (ending in November). I'm sitting out on another fun-filled year of reviews and camaraderie with the crew. I will miss it but I know this is the right decision for me. And yes, I'll blog more about Crew stuff in a later blog post to chat about my year and outline my decisions for leaving.

I've also decided to step down from the Poppins Book Nook. This means that I won't be writing a themed book post with various activities. It also means that I don't have any more monthly blogging obligations.

I will also be cutting back on the number of independent reviews that I take. Writing a review is so very time consuming and I'm ready for a break. I want some freedom from deadlines.

I'm also considering restructuring the number of posts per week. Right now I blog 3 days per week on this blog and 2 days on my food allergy blog. I might drop that number down. That's still a consideration. We'll see......so expect a few quiet days here on the blog as I determine how to best structure my calendar.

What I want to do is get back to blogging for the writing and the sharing of our homeschool journey. I plan to focus more on what our family is doing and have a few more personal glimpses into our life here. I just want to write my thoughts when they come to me and not have a booked blog calendar of scheduled posts. I'm ready for a more laid-back approach for a time.

So, I'm giving you a little warning that I'll be taking a slightly different direction here in the upcoming months. And, if there's anything you'd love to see me blog about, please send me an email at lextinacademy@gmail.com. I'd love to hear your thoughts and answer your questions.

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