Wednesday, February 26, 2014

State Champs!

Here's the announcement written by one of the teachers at the local high school where Luke was on the robotics team this year (edited a bit to remove some identifying information):

On Saturday, the First Tech Challenge (FTC) Freshman Robotics Team competed in the State Championship.  After finishing 11th out of 29 teams from around the state and the region, the team was invited to form an alliance for the Championship Rounds.  While our Team was instrumental in the alliance winning the Championship, FIRST rules are such that only the first two teams of the alliance move on to the Super Regional in order to qualify for Championship Tournament in Saint Louis.  Please congratulate this group of freshmen for their outstanding performance in bringing home our first FTC Championship Trophy to the high school.


What she doesn't point out is that this team of freshmen (so rookies) were competing against teams that have been in FTC before and have seniors on their team (so they're experienced).  Luke invested many, many, many, many hours into this endeavor (as did the other 13 students on the team), and it was so nice to have a reward at the end.

Yeah, I'm bragging ;).

Yeah, he's wearing a duct tape hat in team colors (peer pressure ;) ).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Several weeks ago, we were given a 6 month Online Subscription to review.  This program is priced at $7.95/month, and is designed for children in grades K-2 (or as review for students in grades 3-5).

I decided to use for Nicholas's second grade science curriculum, and as a review fourth grade science curriculum for Micah.  For some reason, even though I love science, it gets pushed to the back burner.  I'm always on the lookout for science that can be done independently. caught my attention for this reason.

There are four books of science in  
  • Inquiry:  covers science skills topics
  • Physical:  covers matter, energy, and force and motion
  • Life:  covers living things and balance in nature
  • Earth/Space:  covers earth and space topics

In each of the four science books, there are many different lessons and activities.  For example, in the Inquiry book, your child will watch an animated video of brothers making observations using their senses.  Then your child will be asked to draw two different kinds of food: one that is red, squishy, and hot, and one that is long, smooth, and yellow for their digital notebook.  Other types of activities include manipulating a 3-D model of the solar system in Earth/Space, vocabulary is taught/reinforced with word scrambles, and in the Life book, they're asked to sort animals into a Venn diagram based on whether they eat plants or animals.  Over the course of the program, students will keep a digital notebook, which contains many of the activities that your child completes and saves. 

Individual logins and dashboards create a personalized experience for each student enrolled.

Activities are fun and engaging.

The graphics are bright and colorful.

The teacher/parent also has an individual login.  There are several components built in to help the parent utilize the program to its fullest.  There are teacher support materials that explain what the lessons are about.  There is a lesson plan option that allows the parent to easily discover what each lesson is about, as well as download extension activities to go along with the program.  Activities can be previewed, so you can see exactly what your child will be doing.  Lessons can easily be assigned to students.  

My favorite feature, though, are the student reports.  You can see how many times your child has logged on, as well as the amount of time spent in the program.  You can see what activities they've completed from each module.  You can also view your child's online science notebook.  You can see all the work they've saved, and how they're progressing in the program.  I enjoyed looking at these digital notebooks as much as I've enjoyed looking a work my boys have done with paper and pencil.

Since my boys are on the older end of the age range, I let them choose which activities to work on, and they were able to work independently as I'd hoped.  My only requirement was that they worked 30 minutes a day.  I checked their student notebooks and the time they spent on the program, and we talked about what they were learning.

Since beginning, has been a success in our homeschool.  Both Micah and Nicholas asked to work on the program outside of school hours, as well as at the end of their school day.  It kept them engaged and learning, even though it wasn't overly challenging, and reinforced things they've previously learned.  I think they might have learned a more brand new things if they were younger instead of on the older end of the age range.  However, it's hard to argue with a program that your children ask to work on.  If you have a child in early elementary, I would definitely check out
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Friday, February 21, 2014

In Eight Years...

"Mom, I'm not very good at remembering phone numbers.  So when I move out, if you want me to call you, you'll need to write your number down for me.  I can't believe it's only 8 years until I'll need to move out.  I'll try to remind you to write it down then."  --Micah, while pouring his cereal for breakfast

Friday, February 14, 2014

Monday, February 10, 2014


Luke has been participating on a FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team this school year.  They had their first competition on Saturday, and they're heading to the State Championships! 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Review: The Sinner's Garden

The Sinner's Garden is a new novel by William Sirls.  I sat here for 20 minutes, trying to figure out how to explain the plot without giving too much away, and have opted to go with the back cover teaser:

"In the small Lake Erie township of Benning, someone is at work cultivating a supernatural garden … 
Andy Kemp’s young life has been as ravaged as his scarred face. Disfigured by an abusive father, the teenager hides behind his books and an impenetrable wall of cynicism and anger. 
As Andy’s mother struggles to reconnect with him, his Uncle Rip returns transformed from a stint in prison and wants to be a mentor to the reclusive boy, doing everything he can to help end Andy’s pain. When Andy begins hearing strange music through his iPod and making near-prophetic announcements, Rip is convinced that what Andy is hearing is the voice of God. 
Elsewhere, police officer Heather Gerisch responds to a late-night breaking and entering in one of the poorest homes in town. She soon realizes that the masked prowler has left thousands of dollars in gift cards from a local grocery store. 
As the bizarre break-ins continue and Heather pursues the elusive “Summer Santa,” Andy and Rip discover an enormous and well-kept garden of wildflowers that seems to have grown overnight at an abandoned steel mill. 
Soon, they realize who the gardener is, and a spree of miracles transfigures this small town from a place of hopelessness into a place of healing and beauty."

I wasn't sure I would enjoy The Sinner's Garden.  I thought it might be too sad or hokey for my tastes.  However, I could not have been more wrong.  I was concerned that I might be put off by the supernatural story line, it was well done and I felt it pointed the reader to the living God.  

The characters were well developed, and the twists and turns in the plot kept me engaged and wondering how it was going to end. While there is deep sadness and pain in the lives of the characters, there is also much joy and hope as the grace of God is recognized in their lives. 

 I was unable to put this novel down, reading it in just a couple of days.  And as tends to be the case with a great book, I was sad when I finished the book and wanted to read more about the characters and what has happened with their lives since the end of the novel.

This book is a real treat, and wonderful way to lose a weekend.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Micah Turns 10

Fun at Chuck E. Cheese

Eragon the Cake