Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Snapshots of Life - October Days

I like taking photos. It is fun to see trends of things that I am drawn to and photos of what we do in our lives every week. Animals and science experiments are a trend for me right now! This is one of the experiments we did in co-op on density from Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. Lady Charlotte leads this part of our co-op, and I am so grateful because I am just not this fun. I would probably have skipped this experiment because it required so many things, but she chose it because she is awesome like that.

Sometimes the sweet moments are unplanned. On the spur of the moment I told my children to get shoes on and that we were going for gelato. No one argued. :D We went to The Fountains. This is a beautiful outside marketplace filled with flowers and, of course, fountains. It was a lovely evening where we discovered a fun store that and enjoyed the company of two other friends too. I very much enjoy spur-of-the-moment events.

On a visit to a friend's home, we discovered the glory of the Chinese Tallow Tree. It was in full beauty for fall. Isn't is lovely? Fall makes me happy. Do you have a favorite time of year?

On the way home from our friend's, we stopped at one of the prettiest places around, High-Hand Nursery, in Loomis. This place is astonishingly pretty and refreshing. Emma was playing with the koi as they nibbled her fingers. 

Below is another shot from inside the barn area at High-Hand Nursery. Aren't the colors beautiful?

Most of you know that we enjoy reptiles here. This is courtesy of our reptile-loving daughter. As you can see, she has an iguana and she likes to do her school with the iguana. Yeah, I know, funny, huh? God has grown me so much with this whole reptile thing. It began a few years ago when my husband and daughter brought home three snakes and two bearded dragons - at one time. (Yes, we are still married! :D)

I was NOT into reptiles at all, but I knew this girl of mine had a real interest in them so I just knew this was an area that God was growing me in. I didn't want to know about reptiles much less own any, but when one of your children loves something, sometimes we do things we might not normally do. I went to a reptile show with her around this time and began to get excited about these strange creatures. God grew our relationship because of it. I am very grateful. 

Do you like poison dart frogs? I find them adorable and fascinating. This one is not ours, but is located at the local reptile store. Did you know that in the wild they are, of course, poisonous, but in captivity they are not? What makes them toxic is what they eat. I had no idea. This guy is about as big as a quarter if you count his legs. He body is as round as a dime. They are very small, very bright, and entirely beautiful to me.

This is our little chameleon. I know I shared a photo of him last time, but he is just adorable here all curled up and sleeping. When he is full grown, he will be red and blue and gorgeous. He already flares up into green when he gets riled. He is a funny little creature!

Not only does this child like reptiles, but she loves dogs. This is our rescue dog, Rocky. He will probably never be an easy-going dog, but he is loyal as the day is long and loves our family--especially my girl. He is a funny addition to our home that I didn't expect to love nearly as much as I do. See those big brown eyes? Yeah, he is a real sweetheart and uses them against us!

Here is my science theme again! Here we made lava lamps and just had a ball!

I enjoy art so much. I know I have posted on this topic a lot, but there is nothing like art. The talents God gave some of these men and women astonishes me. It is a reflection of His glory. This past week we studied Cezanne. His art is not as amazing to me as some, but it was very fallish and the colors were lovely. We used chalk again and recreated Cezanne's Apples and Oranges

Today is the birthday of my youngest. I cannot believe it has been 11 years since her birth. She is a delight to me, full of life and joy, and she brings sunshine where ever she goes. The happiest birthdays to my girl!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bridgeway Academy - Marine Biology Online!

You might be thinking, how is that possible? Marine Biology online? It is! When the Bridgeway Academy review opportunity, Fun with Science - Marine Biology, came up, I thought of my son. He enjoys the study of the ocean and I do too so I figured he would like Bridgeway's Learning Labs. When I was young, I took one of those standardized tests that told me what my strengths were and what I might consider doing for a career when I grew up. One of the things it said about me was that I should consider being a marine biologist. To this day that amuses me because really, science is most definitely not my favorite thing to study, but I have always loved the ocean.


So what is Bridgeway Academy? 

Bridgeway Academy is an online resource for homeschoolers anywhere in the world. They offer a wide range of course options for K through 12th grade classes, full curriculum options, partial enrollment, as well as what we reviewed, Learning Labs - Online Homeschool Co-ops. The Marine Biology course was one such class. This is offered for $145 and lasts for nine weeks. These are live online courses where your child will interact, not only with the teacher (who is visible via a web camera), but also with students all over the world--this is the "co-op" aspect to the class.

How does it work?

Intended for grades 5-8, all students must have a high speed internet connection, a working microphone, and a working headset to participate. A webcam is highly recommended but not required. We had a webcam and this enabled the teacher to see my son when she interacted with him. My son could always see her face. These classes are designed "to encourage critical thinking, interaction, and hands-on learning through interdisciplinary topics." I found this to be true with the exception of the "hands-on" since there was not much of that via an online interaction. Students meet together in an online classroom (Jigsaw Meeting) and class instruction and discussion is facilitated by PowerPoint presentations, PDF documents, videos, in addition to the questions and answers the teacher utilizes throughout the course.

This is what my son's screen looked like:

The upper left is, of course, the teacher. In this case it was a lovely, educated, and interesting woman named Carla Berg. She really knew her subject and her interest in it was infectious. She has been a math and science teacher for eleven years and definitely knows and loves her subjects! There is also a map where the other students are located, a white board and an area for discussion as well as a chat area (with limited access so the kids don't get distracted!) The videos and PowerPoint presentations are enlarged when the teacher is utilizing them as she teaches through the subject. 

What is covered in Fun with Science - Marine Biology?

Our course covered these subjects in the hour and fifteen minute classes:

What is Marine Biology?
Osteichthyes (fish with bony skeletons)
Chondrichthyes (jawed cartilaginous fish - like sharks and rays)
Marine Mammals
Sea Turtles
Coral Reefs and the Arctic 
Polar Seas

To give you an idea of the thoroughness of these courses, this is an example of the 40-page PowerPoint presentation on Osteichthyes:

*Why do fish move?
*What slows fish down?
*Types of fins (detailed information on each kind)
*Anatomy of fish
*How a fish swims
*Cruising Speed
*Different kinds of fish (photos and graphics)
*Muscles of Fish

*Fish Senses (sight, hearing, etc.)
*Lateral Line (defined, explained, demonstrated)
*Swim Bladders
*Gills and Respiration

She carefully goes over each of these things and engages the children, asks good questions, and draws them into the conversation. It is a very Socratic way of teaching that I appreciated a great deal! 

After each class, she would assign homework that coincided with the subject of the week. One week my son had to write a paper on an endangered species. Another assignment was to showcase the "food web" in the sea. He was responsible for the assignment and for making sure the teacher received it on time. Jigsaw Meeting enabled us to go back and redo the PowerPoint presentations, obtain any PDFs or assignments we missed, and even re-watch the whole class if we happened to miss it. This is an example of what you will see inside and what you have access to after the class is over:

We did not need to provide anything for this class as it was all provided by the school via PDFs throughout the course. I really appreciated this! 

What did we think?

Every Monday at 10:15 am, my son would jump onto the computer, put his headphones on, and get going. I loved that he was learning through another teacher and that I didn't have to do any footwork for the class except to ask him, "Did you do your assignment?" He is a fairly self-motivated child (most of the time) and this class was interesting to him. I have never met a child that isn't fascinated with the sea or its creatures and what goes on under the waves. He is no different. I also really liked the manner in which the teacher engaged the students. She definitely drew them out and her love for the subject was appreciated here. At $145 per course ($16 per class), this might not be something that every family can do, but I do highly recommend the courses found at Bridgeway Academy. I know for certain we would never have spent this much time on marine biology, in this much depth, so I was thrilled that he was able to do so. What doors might this kind of learning open up for your child?

The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed two other Learning Labs from Bridgeway Academy in addition to a physical remedial English course called Bridgeway English (Book 1 and Book 2). I definitely recommend you check these reviews out on the Crew site! This is one company I will recommend for a long time to come!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Two Weeks in Snapshot

I have discovered Instagram and it is kind of fun to look over a few weeks and see what sparked a photo. It is a bit of a snapshot of life. There is a lot that happens here!

Chemistry in the co-op...

Began French lessons...

Celebrated Daddy's 44th!

Learned something new about Lincoln...

Hatched out two crested gecko babies, Eggs and Bacon...

Back to co-op at Charlotte's house!

Made bread that disappeared in a day...

Celebrated by own 43rd birthday!

Welcomed our new chameleon, Squee, to the family...

Enjoyed the beauty in the garden before it disappears in the first frost...

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Important Work

I don't know how many of you have seen this amazing blog post:

If you have not seen it, stop reading and go read it. I mean it. It is incredible.

I never feel adequate in my job as a mom. It is my favorite thing in the world, and the part of my life that I feel has purpose and meaning for me as a woman. It is what I longed to be when many young ladies around me wanted to be something else when they grew up. When I married, I wanted to be a wife and a mom.

This is not something that is lauded in our world. It is not something that is valued by enough people. The very role of mother in our world - in the 21st century - is horribly misrepresented and undervalued. Mothers that stay home and raise their children are viewed with contempt by a lot of people. This is wrong.

From the post:

These women are doing something beautiful and complicated and challenging and terrifying and painful and joyous and essential. Whatever they are doing, they ARE doing something, and our civilization DEPENDS on them doing it well. Who else can say such a thing? What other job carries with it such consequences?

It’s true — being a mom isn’t a “job.” A job is something you do for part of the day and then stop doing. You get a paycheck. You have unions and benefits and break rooms. I’ve had many jobs; it’s nothing spectacular or mystical. I don’t quite understand why we’ve elevated “the workforce” to this hallowed status. Where do we get our idea of it? The Communist Manifesto? Having a job is necessary for some — it is for me — but it isn’t liberating or empowering. Whatever your job is — you are expendable. You are a number. You are a calculation. You are a servant. You can be replaced, and you will be replaced eventually. Am I being harsh? No, I’m being someone who has a job. I’m being real.

If your mother quit her role as mother, entire lives would be turned upside down; society would suffer greatly. The ripples of that tragedy would be felt for generations. If she quit her job as a computer analyst, she’d be replaced in four days and nobody would care. Same goes for you and me. We have freedom and power in the home, not the office.

To my mother-friends out there reading this, you are important. What you are doing is shaping the future. If you often feel like a failure, believe me, I understand. I do too. I know that I am not all the things he mentions in his post--boy howdy do I know it. I do know though, that the children God gave me are the most important job He has ever entrusted to me. I am also very grateful He gave me a wonderful husband and that we are doing this crazy thing called parenting together.

However, let me be clear: *I* don't want to be lauded. I know my own failures and my own struggles. I know that I am never going to be enough for my kids. I know that only the Savior of the world is truly enough. He works in the lives of our children and I am so terribly grateful He does because I will never be enough for my kids.

Even on my very best days as their mother, I will never save their souls.

It is an amazing thing to be a mother and Matt Walsh is right that it is important. I am very grateful for his post and I am sure his wife is too. But I couldn't do any of what I do if Jesus hadn't done what He did in His finished work on the cross. His work was the most important thing of all and I don't ever want to forget it.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. I John 4:4

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Essential Oils

Recently, a lovely friend sent me some samples from her DoTerra stash. I had never used essential oils (EOs) before she sent them--or so I thought. I had never used the ones she sent anyway! Little did I know that the tea tree oil and the oregano oil I have used for years are essential oils. Who'd a thunk it?

I got crackin' and started using them for a variety of things they said they would work for. I am pretty hooked. I bought this book: The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 600 Natural, Non-Toxic and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health - Beauty - a Safe Home Environment (longest name ever...) and have been learning ever since.

I had a wonderful conversation with this beautiful woman today about Young Living oils. I appreciate her information in the same way I appreciated my other friend's information. Both of these friends sell high quality oils and both of them have great blends and great oils! What is a naturally minded mama to do?

Quite honestly, I think both companies sound amazing.

I have started making some of my own mixes with some less expensive local health food store oils. I have read what is said about those, but I am still not convinced--yet--that they are truly of lesser quality. They do some of the same things, but I really cannot tell if they are not as good because I am not a scientist and cannot know for sure what is in these oils or if their purity levels are what the containers say they are. It is sort of a conundrum to me.

Today, while searching online, I found a great article that I thought was well-worth reading about 21 things I should know about essential oils. She also linked to Mountain Rose Herbs. These folks have a LOT of oils on their site and some very solid information on what to use them for. There is a lot of good information out there on essential oils, and I am grateful for the information.

If you have EO sites or resources you like and think I should know about them, please feel free to share them in the comments. I am in deep at this point as I am sold on their efficacy. Do you use EOs? If so, which ones and why did you select that company?