Friday, March 16, 2018

Weekly Meal Planning

It's that time again.   The time where I sit down to my computer and stress over what to feed the family for the next few weeks.  While I really enjoy the process of cooking, I despise the act of meal planning itself.  I worry is it too much pasta, too much chicken in a row, ect.   While the family never seems to complain about what's on the table, I personally hate repetition.  Yet, with that said, we are again doing the Korean chicken wings.  These were such a HUGE hit with (almost) the entire family that they have asked for a repeat.  The exception being Garrett who would like me to make his just traditional bbq wings.  

Also, I'm taking a break this year from my traditional St. Patricks meal. Almost every year, we do corned beef with cabbage.  While not an actual Irish meal from Ireland, it does reflect our Irish heritage as that was a common meal with Irish immigrants in the North Eastern United States, where my McGrath family is from.  (My grandfather was Irish mixed with Mohegan).. To honor that heritage, I typically make Corned Beef.  This year, I want to try something different. 

Monday is Ashleigh's birthday (she's turning 10!!!) and since Charles took a week off for vacation that week, we're heading to town to eat for her big day.   Each kid gets to pick where they want to go eat for their birthday and Ashleigh has selected Souplantation, a local soup and salad buffet.   

Saturday- Dublin Coddle with Soda Bread

Sunday – Honey Butter Fried Chicken Wings with Steamed Broccoli

Monday –  Slow Cooker Hoisin Wraps

Tuesday- Firecracker Pork Chops with Brussel Sprouts and Baby Carrots

Wednesday - Cajun Style Steak with brown rice and black beans

Thursday – Italian Beef Sandwiches with Salad and chips

Friday – Baked Tilapia with Green beans and roasted tomatoes

Saturday – Thai Beef Red Curry over rice with salad

Sunday – Baked Lemon and Dill Salmon (Fish Sticks for kids) with steamed broccoli and carrots

Monday – Souplantation for Ashleigh's Birthday!!!!!

Tuesday – Fish Tacos 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

NatureGlo's eScience ( A Homeschool Crew Review )

For the last few weeks, myself and members of the Review Crew have been learning about math in art and nature with the MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle from the NatureGlo's eScience website.

Classes on the NatureGlo's eScience website are recommended for ages 10+ and are taught by Gloria Brooks who has a bachelors degree in K-12 Education and has been teaching homeschool students online since 2011.

MathArt Online 4-Class bundle will eventually include four classes.  Currently, there are two classes that are fully available: Math Connections in the Real World and MathArt in Ancient Cultures.  A third class, Mathematics in the Arts & Sciences is currently being uploaded on a weekly basis as it is recorded and the fourth class, MathArt - Patterns in Nature will be coming in the future.  Each class includes 6 weeks worth of lessons, including videos, activities, quizzes, study guides and supplemental material to help students not only learn the subject matter but to also begin to ask questions and to start making connections with the math that they are learning and what they see in the world around them, whether it be nature, artwork or architecture. 

How We Used It:

I'm going to be completely honest here. This didn't work for us.   I really tried to use this a number of times but could never get past the first video in the first lesson with Garrett.  This wasn't because of the material or the curriculum but instead because of a huge mistake on my own part.  I don't know why I thought if Garrett wouldn't listen to me, that he would listen to another teacher on a video teaching him.  I thought that with his fascination with architecture and design, especially from ancient civilizations, that maybe the Math Art in Ancient Cultures would be of interest to him.  He loves repetitive patterns used in artwork and architecture.  Unfortunately, for this class, it just wasn't going to happen.  It was rather unfortunate too as it did appear as if the material would be very interesting and there are some really neat activities that go along with the weekly lessons.  Garrett just does not have the attention span for it, especially with multiple students speaking in addition to the teacher (none of which he could see).

In order to provide a fair review of the website and classes, that meant that I personally had to work through a class.  Honest truth here - I HATE math and anything to do with math, so this meant that I had to go against my own personal interests and sit down to an online math course.  Since I had already watched at the first video of lesson 1 of the Ancient Cultures course and was honestly tired of it by that point, I decided to instead start with The Golden Ratio & Fibonacci Numbers.  I'm very glad I did because I found that I was able to follow the material (for the most part) and had a pretty good understanding of what the Fibonacci numbers are, much more than I had previously.

As we do have a year subscription to the classes, I am going to try some different approaches. For one thing, each lesson comes with a slideshow presentation along with the actual video lesson.  I might watch the lesson myself, then just show Garrett the slideshow, have a quick discussion based on what I personally pick up from the video and then do the activities afterward.

#hsreviews  #escience #natureglo #math

For more information and to see how other members of the crew liked the MathArt Online 4-class bundle, be sure to click the banner below.  Also, you can find more information on NatureGlo's website.  You can also find them on the following social media platforms:

MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle {NatureGlo's eScience Reviews}

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

When you finish your workout, look over and see this guy staring you down. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

CursiveLogic (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Cursive writing is quickly becoming a lost art form.  In a world where computers and emails are the norm and actually addressing an envelope to write a letter has fallen to the wayside, schools no longer take the time to teach cursive style writing.  However, many homeschool parents still see the importance of teaching this valuable skill and are always on the lookout for an effective way to teach cursive without tears and frustration.

CursiveLogic is an affordable, effective way to teach cursive quickly in short but manageable lessons that even younger students can handle.

For this review, members of the crew were given the Cursive Logic Quick-Start Pack and The Art of Cursive coloring book.

What is CursiveLogic?

CursiveLogic was founded by Harvard graduate Linda Shrewsbury a homeschool mother, teacher and college professor who developed the CursiveLogic way of teaching cursive in order to meet the needs of one of her adult special education students.

The CursiveLogic method of teaching works on the inherent structure of the cursive alphabet.

* Letters are grouped by shape:  Four basic shapes make up the entire alphabet.  CursiveLogic teaches all these similar letters together in one lesson, greatly simplifying the learning process.  Rather than teaching the letters in alphabetical order, CursiveLogic groups the lowercase alphabet into four groups based on the shape of the initial stroke of the letter.  Letters are also taught in a specific order that helps to reinforce that pattern.  By teaching similar letters together, CursiveLogic captures the natural synergy of the alphabet, allowing each letter in the series to reinforce the proper formation of all the others.

*Letter Strings:  Rather than teaching each letter individually, the program instead teaches all the letters that share the common shape together in a connected string, allowing the letters to reinforce each other and has the student writing in cursive from the very first lesson.

*Color Coding:  Each letter string has a theme color that helps the student remember the shape.  For example, letters that "Oval Over" are part of the "Orange Oval" string

* Catch Phrases:  CursiveLogic uses catchphrases to be used as memory aids to help develop muscle memory and give the students a mnemonic that they can return to over and over.  Students learn a simple, rhythmical chant that describes the path of the letter shapes being formed.

*Real Words:  Due to the fact that CursiveLogic teaches groups of letters instead of individual letters in each lesson, students can write real words at the end of the first lesson.

How We Used It:

Before we ever started the workbook, I took the time to watch the instructional webinar includes with the purchase of the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack.  This is a 48-minute video rental (rental is for 6 months of unlimited streaming from Vimeo and cannot be downloaded to your computer) that teaches the instructor how to teach the CursiveLogic method as well as what about this particular method makes it effective for teaching students cursive writing.  I found the video to be extremely helpful with many good tips on how to approach the lessons both verbally as well as writing on my dry erase board.  While it would be possible to teach the CursiveLogic method without the video, my opinion is that teaching would be much more successful after watching the video.

With the knowledge from the video in hand, it was time to sit down with Garrett and begin working on his learning.

Each lesson begins using the "Use, Start, Say" model.  First students trace the new letter string with their finger to help learn the proper letter formation.  They then trace over the letters with a writing instrument, with an arrow on the paper that shows the student where the letter starts.  Finally, they learn the catchphrase that goes with each string of letters.

Garrett finger tracing the letter string. 

Tracing over the letters with his pencil. 

After successfully tracing the letter strings multiple times, students then begin to write the letters strings on their own without any guides to help them.

And finally, they begin to write words using the letters that they have learned.

I have got to say, I have noticed a significant improvement in Garrett's writing since he has begun using the CursiveLogic program, both with his cursive writing as well as his print writing.  CursiveLogic has made him have to slow down and actually think about what he's doing.  Whether it's remembering to touch the middle line or bringing his loop to touch the top line, he's making a more conscientious effort to properly form the letters. I also hear him repeating the mnemonic phrases often as he's writing. The improvement has even been noticed by my husband who has found that he can actually read Garrett's writing now as in the past I had to "translate" for him.

One thing I will mention is that we had an older version of the CursiveLogic workbook which is significantly different from the new edition workbook that Garrett was using for this review.  I allowed Ashleigh to use the older workbook so that I could see the differences between the two side by side and in use to compare to one another.  What I found was that the new edition is much easier to use.  The lessons flow continuously in the new workbook - the student simply has to flip the page to the next consecutive even page in the book (Page 4 follows page 2, Page 6 follows page 4, ect.)  When they come to the back cover of the notebook, they simply flip the notebook over and continue with the "backside' of the pages (consecutive odd pages) until they reach the front cover and finish the book. However, the older notebook has the lesson printed on front and pack, meaning the notebook has to be flipped over in addition to turning the page.  The right-hand corner of the page is color coded as well, navy for even pages, mauve for odd pages, as a visual reminder to continue with the consecutive pages instead of flipping the book over.

While Garrett (and Ashleigh) worked hard with the CursiveLogic workbook, I had the pleasure of coloring in the coloring book, The Art of Cursive. While not part of the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack, this coloring book is available for purchase and includes 27 line art pictures that incorporate words and letter chains to help reinforce the skills learned during the CursiveLogic Workbook.

The pages in the coloring book are printed on heavyweight paper, making them ideal for markers, although I highly recommend a set of very fine point markers for the many teeny tiny spaces created by all the beautiful looping letters.

The CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack, which includes both the CursiveLogic Workbook and a 6-month subscription to the CursiveLogic instructional webinar can be purchased for $49.  The Art of Cursive coloring book is available for purchase for $15.95.  Both items can be purchased from the CursiveLogic website.   Additional workbooks can also be purchased from the website.  However, if you use the code CREW2018, you can save 20% on the Quick-Start pack (code is active till the end of March 2018)

#hsreviews  #cursive #ilovecursive #cursivelogic

You can get more information about CursiveLogic by visiting their website. You can also find them on Facebook.

The Art of Cursive & Quick Start Cursive {Cursive Logic Reviews}

Monday, March 5, 2018

Magic Stix (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Art supplies are always a big hit in our household, so when we had the chance to review the 24 pack of Magic Stix Washable Markers from The Pencil Grip, Inc., the same company who makes Kwix Stix paint sticks that our family already loves, we knew that another fun review was to be had.  We had already had the pleasure of trying the 12 pack Magic Stix right before the holidays, but the draw of even more bright, bold colors had us super excited for this review. 

Magic Stix are non-toxic markers that come in bright, bold colors and are available as either a 12 pack or 24 pack.  Both options come in a sturdy plastic carrying case which I absolutely love as it conveniently keeps all the markers in one place rather than in a flimsy paper box.

We received the 24 pack of the markers which contained a nice array of colors.  The markers themselves are a bit bigger around than other brands, making them a bit easier to hold. They have no odor when being used and provide a nice vivid, bold color.

But one of the biggest draws of these markers is that they can be left without their cap for 7 days without drying out.  I cannot tell you how many markers I have had to throw out over the years because someone forgot to put the cap back on them when they were finished being used.  While we did not repeat the process this time around, back in December we took the 7 Day Cap Off Challenge and the marker was writing just as well on Day 7 as it did on Day 1.  (Unfortunately, my paper did not, as one of the kids had spilled water on it). 

I did notice that each subsequent day, the writing appeared to be darker than the day before. I do not know if this is because the ink faded each night or if being exposed to air concentrates the color but you can see that Day 1 appears much lighter than Day 6 and 7). 

How We Used Them:

My kids were pretty upset with me this time around.  You see, we've reviewed Kwik Stixs a few times now and we've also reviewed Magic Stix back before the holidays.Each of these reviews, I handed the item over to the kids and allowed them to have fun with them.  Well, this time around, Mom declared that the brand spanking new 24 pack of Magic Stix was all for Mom and Mom had no intention of sharing.. Yeah, that worked, let me tell ya.. haha

Somehow, MY pack of Magic Stix was the "Go To" pack of markers for any and all school projects, even if the same exact colors were available in the 12 pack I allowed Ashleigh to have.. LOL  

But, I did get my own fair share of usage from MY pack of Magic Stix. For example, I used them to color in my various adult coloring page.  (Come back tomorrow to see this page completed). 

Alyssa also used them for her own coloring pages and has come out with some really great results. 

I personally really like the bright even colors that are produced with nice, even coverage, although, as shown in Alyssa's example, you can still produce a color gradient with them if desired. 

I have always been thoroughly impressed with the products we have received from The Pencil Grip, Inc. whether it be their paint sticks, markers or even the pencil grips themselves. 

#hsreviews  #magicstix   #nocapnoproblem  #magicstixmarkers

Social Media:  

For more information about Magic Stix, visit their website.  You can also find more information on the following social media sites:

Magic Stix Washable Markers {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Friday, March 2, 2018

Meal Planning

I have a love/hate relationship with dinner preparation.  I LOVE to cook and I love to eat..  But I absolutely hate cleaning up after cooking dinner.   Anyone else?

I keep being reminded that I have three kids, ages 10 (in 24 days) thru 18 who are perfectly able to clean the kitchen after dinner.  I've tried that before with my oldest, asking her to load and unload the dishwasher each night.  The end result was that she didn't rinse the dishes off before putting them in the machine and they were worse off than before they went in.  Oh well, maybe with the three of them working together, it might get done right.

Anyhooo, it's that time of the week to get the grocery shopping done and plan out the meals.  And it is here that I have a confession to make - I ate out WAY much more than I wanted last week.  We got our tax refund in and well, my scale shows it.. I mean, I was whining because the scale shows a weight gain and then I think ohhh, yeah, we had Subway,  In-N-Out, Burger King, and Chick-fil-a instead of cooking dinner at home four nights - Go figure, right??  (but oooh that Double Double Animal Style was soooooooo goooooood).. That means I have leftover meals ready to go in the fridge/freezer to eliminate the shopping costs this time around.  This also means that a number of the meals from last go round make a re-appearance this week.  LOL    It also means we will NOT be eating out this time around!!!  (okay, maybe one time for a date night but I will eat healthy.. lol)

Linguini with seafood   (last night's dinner lol)

Scottish Eggs with Neep, Taters and carrot soup

Heoni-beoteo-chikin with Korean Spicy Carrots

Chorizo Stuffed Peppers with Avocado and Black mean salad, Mexican spice roasted broccoli

Parmesan and Spinach Mac and Cheese

Chicken Burrito Bowls with Quinoa, black beans, corn and avocado

Bangers and Mash

Spicy Pineapple Pork with Rice and zucchini

Chicken Bacon and cabbage skillet

Skillet Shepherd's Pie

Beef and Broccoli

Honey Lemon Chicken with Sauteed Green beans

Smother Baked Chicken Burritos with Mexican Rice and Salad

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Drive Thru History Adventures (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Last summer, the kids and I (minus Alyssa) had the opportunity to get to meet Dave Stotts from the Drive Thru History series and attend his presentation at the homeschool convention in our area.  It was here that we were introduced to a few upcoming projects that Drive Thru History was working on.  The first being an exhibit at the Museum of the Bible at Washington D.C and the second being Drive Thru History Adventures - a website filled with curriculum and resources for homeschooling families built upon the Drive Thru History video series as a platform.

Well, being that we are in California, we haven't been able to make the trip to our nation's capital to visit the newly opened museum as of yet. However, we have had the opportunity to spend the last few weeks reviewing  Drive Thru History Adventures and I am happy to say that it is everything that I was hoping it would be and more.

What is it?

Currently, Drive Thru History Adventures offers three online classes.  The Ancient History class is a 12-week tour thru Greece, Rome, and Asia Minor.  The second 12-week course is American History where Dave drives you through the birth of our nation, starting with Columbus and following through to the signing of the Constitution.  Finally, an 18-week course on Bible History that uses the series The Gospels will take you on a guided visual tour of Israel while learning about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   Each class approaches history with a Biblical worldview.

However, the Drive Thru History Adventures website is much more than just access to the video series.  Instead, each week of the class revolves around one episode from the series and then additional resources, questions, and worksheets are added to make a curriculum that is appropriate for ages 12 and above. Suggested reading (included on the website) can also be added for high school students and can be read from the website itself or downloaded to the computer as a PDF to read later.

Additional resources and printable questions are available from each lessons launch page.

Also, each lesson's page has additional photographs that tie into the lesson that are not included in the videos.  These might be photographs of ruins or architecture of the time, a painting of an important historical figure or of classic artwork that tie into the lesson.

In addition to the main website, Adventures can also be accessed thru Drive Thru History Adventures TV which first gives access to the three courses on mobile devices such as tablets and phones thru the downloading of the Drive Thru History Adventures TV App (available for Android, iPhone and even Chromecast - so hopefully it will become available for Roku or FireTv in the future).

In addition to the three courses, Adventures TV also gives access to other videos on a wide variety of topics from Roman coins, the history behind major holidays, to behind the scenes videos from the Drive Thru History production crew.  This is also where Drive Thru History talks to YOU!  Yes, you heard me right.  There have been a number of videos where Dave Stotts has asked for members to submit their questions so that he can respond in a video, making the Drive Thru History Adventures a bit more personal, especially for kids.  (But its really cool for moms too!!)

Finally, membership to Drive Thru History Adventures also gives members access to the Members Only social media group.  This is another really great perk as it provides yet another form of personal relationship with the Production crew at Drive Thru History. Whether its Dave Stotts himself commiserating with you about having the flu or being able to ask Lead writer Randall Niles about one of the recent articles he posted to the Drive Thru History Adventures Blog, the social media community is a fun yet safe place to ask questions or just have a general chit chat about history.

How We Used It

Before I get into the actual logistics of how we eventually used this website, I should tell you how the first week went.

Since membership allows for access to the videos and curriculum for your choice of three adventures, I decided to start with the Ancient History Adventures with Ashleigh and Garrett since much of the information would coincide with what they are currently learning about this year.  With printouts in hand, the kids and I watched this first video and were finishing up with the discussion questions when my oldest daughter came into the living room and was quite upset that we watched it without her.   I've mentioned in other blog posts - my daughter is a HUGE Dave Stotts fan so how dare I watch Dave Stotts without her!!

This meant that the kids and I then watched the first video for Ancient History for the second time. I printed out a third set of questions and together the kids watched the video and Alyssa helped Ash and Garrett with their worksheets.

The Kids meeting Dave Stotts in June
That afternoon, my husband came home from work and asked the kids how their day went.  They told him about their school day and that we watched the first video in Ancient History and how Dave Stotts got lost trying to find the Colosseum even though he drove right by it and how that was so funny.

To which my husband took offense that we would dare watch Drive Thru History without him since he enjoyed the Gospels so much when we reviewed it last year.  That night we had to watch Episode 1 of Ancient History yet a 3rd time so that Charles could watch it as well.  Garrett watched it the third time with the same enthusiasm that he had watched it the first time and they still laughed as they watched Dave zip right past the Colosseum in his smart car.

This first week was a true learning adventure for me - I learned that our weekly lessons with Drive Thru History Adventures were going to have to be a family affair.  Since then, we have a family date on Tuesday nights. After we eat our dinner, we all cuddle up on the couches in the living room, turn on the TV and watch the next episode of Drive Thru Adventures as a family.  Which has actually worked out very nicely as now everyone can participate in the discussions and work together to answer the questions on the worksheets that might have missed..  It also means that Mom doesn't have to read all the extras alone (and Dad gets to have some fun with voices as he pretends to be Pliny the Younger or reading from Virgil.  The extras such as these readings really help to add a bit more "depth" to the curriculum beyond just the discussion questions and have added to some real educational moments for our family - such as when my kids schooled their father on who both Pliny the Younger and Pliny the Elder were.

My kids love Drive Thru History.   Dave Stotts is someone who obviously loves history and loves to share that love with others.  It's also obvious that he wants to especially share that love of history with children in the hopes to ignite that same passion for history.   It's this approach that Dave and the Gang at Drive Thru History take that actually get my son to watch a full episode each week without complaints and has him giggling and talking about Dave's silly antics for days later.

 I personally have enjoyed the extras that come with the Drive Thru History Adventures, including the Drive Thru Adventures TV app on my phone. While the videos such as Dave's "holiday recipe" video has been of interest to the kids and the "History of Cheese" video had us all cracking up with all the horribly cheesy puns, I personally enjoy the videos about the coins of  Herod as well as his building projects. I also really enjoy the "Recent Posts" section where there are some really wonderful writings with contributors adding to it at least a few times each week.

#hsreviews  #drivethruhistory  #drivethruhistoryadventures  #adventurelearning

I HIGHLY recommend Drive Thru History Adventures. It's a great curriculum for the entire family and I could honestly write a novella telling you how great it is. But, the good news is, they offer a 7 day free trial for you to check it out on your own.

You can find more information about Drive Thru History Adventures at their website as well as on the following social media platforms:

Drive Thru History Adventures - Subscription {Drive Thru History Adventures Reviews}

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