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Archive for March, 2010

Today we ended our Spring Break and got back to school. Even Brock said he was glad to go back–“At least it gives me something to do,” was his comment! 😉

I have a few random pictures to show from our break.

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Cosette has a new hobby: reading John’s 7th grade science book! She loves listening in on his class, which she regularly does since it is at the end of the day and she is usually just finishing up a few papers at that time. John often has his textbook upstairs for homework, and Cosette has started picking it up and reading it. In fact, right now that is what she is doing! She thinks his science is much more interesting than her “boring and easy” third grade science!

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Cosette has another hobby that she uses to fill time: making things out of paper. She loves to make little accessories for her Webkinz, but over Spring Break she tried out an origami pattern for making rabbits. She figured out on her own that if she made the ears smaller, the result looked like a cat. I thought these were pretty cute!

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John is getting very close to achieving the First Class rank of Boy Scouts. He has been finishing up a few more requirements so that he will get the advancement at his troop’s next Court of Honor. He met his scoutmaster this past weekend at the college pool to practice life-saving water skills, and he spent quite a bit of time on Sunday practicing lashings. That is what he is doing in the picture. The requirement is to make a useful camping gadget using poles and lashings. He just loves this type of thing–anything that involves rope and knots is right up his alley. In fact, he has even been messing around with string figures again. (He used to do that a lot, and was quite good at it. It’s nice to see him start it up again!)

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This is a video featuring a candidate that I am watching that is running for Jerry Moran’s seat. His website is at http://www.huelskamp.org/ . He sounds pretty good. We sure need some good, solid people in Washington!

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We gave our kids a DSI for Christmas.  One of the things they love doing on it is recording different sounds and then playing the recording backwards, speeding it up, slowing it down, adding effects, etc.  This has led to a unique hobby:  learning to speak backwards.  The kids will record a brief phrase, play it backwards over and over, and then try to learn to say it backwards.  They then reverse the backward recording to see how close it comes to the original phrase.  Usually, it ends up being pretty funny and sounds nothing like the original phrase, but today Brock got one so close that I think anyone can understand the backwards talking played in reverse.  Here is the video:

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This week we are taking our spring break.  It has been my practice to have the kids take standardized testing each year during this time.  It is not a requirement in our state, but it helps us to document our kids’ academic progress and standings.  In this unpredictable time that we live, it never hurts to have better-than-expected documentation on what we are accomplishing, if you know what I mean….  Our kids always do extremely well on these tests.  We are definitely blessed with very intelligent children!

This is Kara’s first year taking the standardized tests.  She is doing very, very well, and trying her absolute hardest on each section.  She is our “mystery” child.  Because we know absolutely NOTHING about her birth history, we have to “unwrap” her natural abilities.  Sports?  Music?  Academics?  Drama?  Who knows???  So, it’s always interesting to see her try new things.

It has really been interesting watching her progress through the A Beka phonics program and learn to read.  English truly is her second language, so this has been different for her than for any of our other kids.  Despite the fact that she was adopted at 3-years-old,  her first language was Chinese and that continues to affect her in different ways.  I noticed several months ago how funny English sometimes is to her.  Going through the K5 program, she reads through phonetic lists of words and sometimes she will just look at me and laugh at the words she comes across.  She can sound them out all right, but sometimes these sample words are just not words that she has come across living with us for the past 3 years.  Today we were working through the phonics portions of the standardized testing, and another common ESL issue for her surfaced:  she has a really hard time saying, let alone differentiating between the “th” sound and the “v” sound.  She substitutes these sounds back and forth, so it didn’t surprise me at all that she mixed them up on the testing too.  Actually, going through phonics helps point out these minute differences in sounds for her and is helping her correct these sounds.  I think it will be an on-going issue for her, though, as she continues to learn to spell.  Wouldn’t it be difficult to know how to spell a word if you were unsure if it was “th” or “v”?

On the other hand, I was surprisingly pleased with Kara’s work on the vocabulary section of the test.  Sometimes I just don’t realize what words she does and does not know–even after three years of being part of our family.  I was a little worried that this might show up in the vocabulary section, but she did absolutely wonderful on that.

So, my Spring Break isn’t much of a break, I guess.  My days are pretty filled with getting through all of these tests.

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We are currently in our 8th year of homeschooling using the A Beka Academy DVD Program.  We have always been happy with our curriculum choice because the kids love school, are well above grade-level academically, and most importantly, they are growing in their faith.  The program is well-organized and fairly simple to implement, even when trying to organize five kids all in different grades!

A Beka recently announced new pricing and options for the 2010/2011 school year, and I am very happy to say that the prices have actually gone DOWN!  We have never complained about the costs because it covers all of the materials and the DVD instruction, and we have found it to be pretty reasonable.  But now, the prices are even lower than before!  The prices are outlined on the A Beka Academy website located here.  There are different pricing options depending on if a family chooses the DVD’s or the online streaming videos.  Customers can also choose if they want the program to include all of the books or not–which is a benefit I will discuss later in this entry.

Here is an example of the actual price drop.  I am using the 4th grade DVD option with all textbooks for the sample.  Using the 2009/2010 pricing, it was $1025.  Again, I found that to be a good price considering all of the materials, instruction, and support that was included.  For 2010/2011, however, the price has been lowered to $895!  Isn’t that great?!

I don’t think that A Beka is going to offer the early enrollment discounts, multiple child discounts, etc., but even figuring those in, the price is still lower.

I like the fact that they have discontinued the Family Kit discounts and have changed to the all texts or video only options.  The video only option for 4th grade, for example, is $665.  This works great for families like mine that have several kids.  There are many texts that are non-consumable and can be passed down from one child to the next.  So, there can be substantial savings for families to reuse materials and purchase only the ones that they need each year.  So, my plan is to buy the full grades for the first child (or for updated grades) and then reuse materials supplementing the consumables.  It will be a little bit more of a hassle to order, but I determined that our over-all cost will be lowered by approximately $375 by doing so.

The new pricing is not the only change coming up.  They are also offering subject combinations for families who only want to use part of a grade.   For grades 1-6, families can choose from two combinations:  Language Arts & Bible; Arithmetic, Science, History & Bible.   Individual courses can also be purchased for grades 7-12.

A summary of the exciting new changes can be found on the A Beka Website here.  I would encourage those who are considering homeschooling options to check out their website and/or call them for more information.  I would be happy to be of help as well, so feel free to contact me any time.

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I use Facebook applications quite often, and my bookmark list gets pretty jumbled sometimes!  Before the Facebook format changed, it was easy to rearrange my bookmarks because I could just drag and drop them to my heart’s content!  This weekend I decided it was time to rearrange my bookmarks again, and was frustrated to find out that the drag and drop method no longer worked with the new FB formatting.

So, I started doing searches of how to do this.  I kept running into the same thing:  the drag and drop feature does not currently work and there is “no way” to reorder the bookmarks at this time.  I finally found a helpful hint, though, and when I tried it, it worked!  I decided to post what I learned here, not only to help others who are wondering the same thing, but also as a reminder to myself so I don’t forget!  😉

To reorder Facebook bookmarks in the new format:

1. Click on the account menu at the top right of the Facebook profile page.

2. Select Application settings from the drop-down menu.  This will bring up a page that displays all of the applications that are enabled on your account.

3. In the pull-down menu labeled “Show” at the top of this page, select “Bookmarked.”  This will bring up a list of applications that have been bookmarked.

4. This list can be rearranged by the old drag-and-drop method!  When the list is in the desired order,  the bookmarks will show up in the new order when you return to your wall!

Pretty cool, isn’t it?!  Maybe Facebook will simplify this process in the future, but at least this method does work and allows me to get my favorite apps at the top of my bookmark list!

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