Math Mammoth Review and Co-op Order

Mar 28, 2011

Having been homeschooling for over 10 years, we have tried a lot of curriculums. For math, we have primarily used Miquon, Singapore, and Math Mammoth for the elementary years. I like each one for different reasons and switch back and forth when we have issues with the one we have been working in. My favorite is Math Mammoth. I love that I can order it online, download it immediately, and print off only what I need. You can get individual topics or whole grade levels. Maria Miller, the author, has also created videos that help you teach the concepts.

Math Mammoth offers affordable, yet quality math worktexts and workbooks for grades 1-8, available as both downloads and printed books. These books concentrate on conceptual understanding and are strong in mental math. The directions in the worktexts are written directly to the student, and are often self-teaching, thus requiring little preparation and involvement from the teacher. 

For my review, I'm looking over our Addition 1 worktext that I bought for IB last year. It covers sums with #5-10, missing addend problems, word problems, and adding on a number line. It includes an introduction explaining how to use the book and ideas for memorization, games for teaching and reinforcing the concepts, and links to math game websites. Many lessons begin with an explanation and illustrations of the concept, then progresses to having the student draw their own pictures to solve the problems. I also used our own manipulatives (wooden cubes) to help him understand the concepts. Some children may need more practice than is included in each lesson, as the goal is mastery. You can find worksheets at Math Mammoth, create your own, or find them online. 

While you can order printed copies or the ebook on CD, I prefer to download and print them myself. Once I have downloaded an ebook, I save it to a CD in case my computer crashes. If we only need specific sections of a topic or grade level worktext, I print it off as needed. If we are using the whole worktext, I print it off, hole-punch it, and put it in a folder or binder. The other great thing about downloading it is that, although it is consumable, you will be able to use it for each child and not have to purchase any more. So far, I have only purchased individual topics from the Blue series.

If you are interested in ordering Math Mammoth, you can purchase the whole Blue or Light Blue series for 50% off through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. I'm getting the Light Blue series, which is a complete curriculum for grades 1-6 for only $64. Hurry, the deadline is 03-31-11! And in case you were wondering, the Homeschool Buyers Co-op is free to join. Check it out!

Cinnamon Crisps

Mar 25, 2011

Nasoya Round Wraps were on manager's special for $0.99 last night so I picked them up knowing I could find something to do with them. After searching Nasoya's website, I found several recipes I'd like to try but the only one I had the ingredients on hand for were the Cinnamon Sugar Crisps. You could easily make these with cut-up flour tortillas also but the wraps are much thinner.

Nasoya Round Wraps
Cinnamon sugar
Cooking spray or oil to brush on

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay wraps out on cookie sheet. I could fit 12 without overlapping.

Lightly spray with cooking spray or brush oil onto wraps. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 400 for about 5 minutes or until bubbly and just starting to turn golden. They will continue to crisp after removing from oven.

These would be super yummy served in a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream 
and drizzled with hot chocolate sauce.

In Search of Naan

Papa Bear took this picture when he was in Afghanistan. The young man is inspecting the flat bread or naan that just finished baking inside a stone oven. After the dough is formed by hand, they literally throw the dough onto the inside wall of the oven. When it's finished baking, they toss it onto this cloth-covered floor. Quite a contrast from our sterile factory bakeries where the employees wear white uniforms and hair nets and the recipes include ingredients that we can't pronounce.

Papa Bear loved the naan he had there. I have looked for recipes but since I've never actually had it, I don't know which one to try. Here are a few I'm interested in:

Do you know of any good naan recipes? I would love to surprise him with some. If it's easy enough, it will probably become a regular staple for our family. Thanks for your help!

Time4Learning Review

Mar 24, 2011

Time4Learning allowed us to give their program a free trial run for four weeks. I set it up for NG, IB, and LJ but ended up only using it with the older two. LJ quickly lost interest as I knew he would, but he just turned four. My main goal was to help NG get past a hurdle with math. We had gotten to a point where I couldn't teach the concept in a way he was understanding or he had a mental block and just needed to reset. Having been going through my own homeschool burnout, IB hadn't been getting everything he needed. We have been focusing on the basics and leaving out social studies and science. We all needed a little change in the scenery, so to speak. I have to be honest and admit that I took a break from our regular school work and let the boys do Time4Learning only. I don't believe that they suggest using it as a stand-alone curriculum.

NG, age 12, has struggled with math for a couple of years and his current battle was with operations with fractions. The first day on Time4Learning, he was able to understand it and move through it without difficulty. Obviously, he just needed a fresh take on it. The other focus for NG was language arts. He said he had to answer questions to determine if he was already familiar with the material before the lesson was presented (pretest) and the lessons were easy to understand. NG did not care for the science portion, but I'm sure that's just a personal preference, not anything wrong with material. He did say that he really liked doing his lessons online at first, but then changed his mind. He couldn't imagine sitting at the computer every day for all or even just several subjects.

IB, age 7, really enjoyed Time4Learning and was disappointed when it was finished. He loved all of it but his favorite part was the drill sergeant puppet in the language arts section. Perhaps because his dad has been a DS for years. The social studies program filled in gaps of knowledge and he soaked it up like a sponge. After looking over his scores, however, I do realize that he still needs one-on-one tutoring with me and more repetition to fully understand the material.

I liked the way Time4Learning is set up, for the most part. I would have liked an easier method for lesson planning, one that would be easier for a child to follow. I liked being able to check my children's progress through the portfolio and the fact that it is online only and accessible from any computer. Overall, my opinion is that Time4Learning is a great supplement to homeschooling. I would definitely consider it during specific seasons or situations of a homeschooling family's life that require us to put our regular curriculum aside, such as illness, new baby, summer break, burnout, etc. It is affordable and worth the cost when it is needed.

Time4Learning gave me a free month of access to their program in return for an honest review.

Fade to Black {Or My Trip to the ER}

Mar 21, 2011

What covers over 2/3 of the Earth and is necessary for life?

What makes up about 60% of the human body?

What should the average person consume more of while ill and feverish to avoid dehydration?

What should a breastfeeding mother consume more of to avoid dehydration?

What should a breastfeeding mother of five, who is ill and has a fever, consume copious amounts of to avoid ending up in the hospital?

Now, do you have any idea how much water that actually is? 

Well, apparently, I don't.

My upper respiratory infection developed rapidly from a sore throat on Thursday to head congestion on Friday. After a night of poor sleep, I got up early Saturday to head to the soccer field to watch the boys' first games of the season. {I hope that, one day, my boys appreciate the things that we have done for them.} NG was also not feeling well so I ended up taking him home after IB's game. By this time, I was feeling very worn out and could feel the congestion creeping down into my chest, but puttered around doing a "few more things" before I finally plopped myself down in front of the TV with my sick boys. I spent the rest of the evening there and finally developed a fever. It didn't take long before my fever climbed to 104.5. I took an acetaminophen and called Papa Bear because he likes to be informed of the goings-on at home while he is working. One of his co-workers overheard our phone conversation and offered to finish Papa Bear's shift so he could come home to take care of me. {Thanks, J!} During this time, I was drinking water fairly consistently but I hadn't been throughout the whole day. When I would get up, I felt a bit woozy and just marked it up to the congestion and high fever. Papa Bear came home about 11:00 p.m. and we went straight to bed. He monitored my temperature, made sure I had water, and walked me to the bathroom a couple of times. I passed out twice before, once while in labor but the other time I was feverish and he caught me falling  out of the shower unconscious. Right before dawn on Sunday morning, I had to pee again and I told him I would be okay...

Seconds later, this is what he heard...

{loud clunk} as I "lifted" the toilet lid
{"nnnnnnn"} in response to him asking if I was okay

This is what he did...

Needless to say, he made a dash for the bathroom just in time to catch me as I was falling into the tub and hitting my head on the faucet. He yanked me up and started slapping my face, yelling my name, and alternately, yelling for M1 or NG, who were both sound asleep upstairs with their doors closed. M2 was sleeping in our bed and Papa Bear was afraid he would wake up and fall off, so he needed help. M1 finally realized that Dad's voice wasn't just in his dream and stumbled down the stairs in a panic. M2 had already woken and slid himself off of the bed, so M1 grabbed him and watched as Dad carried his limp Mom to the bedroom. Papa Bear propped up my head and feet with pillows, checked my heart rate, and kept asking me questions, trying to bring me to full consciousness. Everyone should be so blessed to have live-in emergency personnel. He called our niece, the nurse, and then the emergency room. They both said to bring me in because something was definitely going on. Then he called my mom to come stay with the boys.

This is what I remember...

As I walked the very short trip to the bathroom, I began to hear the familiar static in my ears and felt weak and woozy. I barely remember tossing the toilet lid up too hard and sitting on the toilet. Then... BLACK. I could hear Papa Bear's voice yelling at me from faraway. I wanted to respond but the words wouldn't come to me. I wanted to move my arms or legs but they were heavy and limp. Gradually, I could respond but, at first, only with muttering and then simple words. My most used word was "tired" because Papa Bear kept asking me how I felt. It took too much effort to do more. After several minutes in bed, I was able to think more clearly but was still weak. I remember the worried looks on their faces. My youngest son sleeping on my oldest son's shoulder. Papa Bear trying to maintain control despite his deep concern. Papa Bear told Mason to put a pillow and blanket in the car, start it, and set up a couple of chairs along the path to the door, in case I needed to stop and rest as we walked out to the van. 

At the E.R....

The trip was uneventful. There was only one family with a sick baby waiting when we got to the E.R. When it was my turn in the triage, I sat in the wheelchair answering the nurse's questions when I felt that familiar feeling again. He saw the look on my face and immediately started wheeling me back to a room. I could feel myself going limp in the chair and the blackness was closing in on me again. I guess being vertical was causing my blood pressure to drop. As soon as they got me in the bed, I started to return to "normal". Several nurses worked at getting me hooked up to the monitors and started an IV. After five hours, two bags of fluids, a flu swab, chest xrays, blood and urine tests, they determined I only had a virus and I was dehydrated. Or "three quarts low" as my nurse put it. Thankfully, she was cheery and the doctor was pleasant. Actually, everyone was but that may have something to do with the fact that my husband is in there all of the time when he's working and knows all of them. 

Back at home...

My lovely momma had stopped to pick up the boys favorite donuts and chocolate milk before driving 40 minutes to our house. She had washed all of my dirty dishes and was working on my mountain of laundry. She changed diapers, wiped snotty noses, and rocked the baby. M2 flung himself into my arms with relief that Momma was home. The older boys gave me unsolicited hugs. I lay down in my bed and nursed M2 and  Papa Bear took a nap because he was sick and worn out also. M2 wouldn't go to sleep or leave my side, so I hung out on the couch and in the kitchen with my mom. LJ brought me daffodils from the yard. The sun shone, the birds chirped, and the world was in living color again.

Healing Chicken Soup {Yes, we're still sick...}

Mar 18, 2011

Can you believe it has been three full weeks and we are still dealing with illness? Papa Bear and I have finally gotten sick, as well as Levi and Miles...again. Miles was the first one to be sick and was fully recovered until a few days ago. Tuesday, I took Levi to the doctor and they confirmed that he has bronchitis. The other three boys are getting their strength back. I was forced out of bed very early this morning with a raging sore throat, so I took advantage of being up at dawn by enjoying some hot tea and reading Lazarus Awakening. {I'll post my review soon.} Then I got started on making chicken stock so we could have chicken noodle soup for lunch {and probably dinner}. Homemade chicken soup is not only soothing and nourishing but has healing properties.

Making chicken broth is easy and not an exact thing. You just cut up some vegetables, throw in a chicken, cover with water, and let it simmer for a few hours or so. But I know that most people like their instructions a little more specific, so I'll tell you what I do. There are other ways to do it, like the method Kimi Harris uses at The Nourishing Gourmet. Do a little research and experimenting to find out what works for you.

First of all, I buy the most natural chicken available at our grocery. It may cost a few dollars more than a regular one, but is healthier and it ends up being the best deal. I pay almost $3.00 for an aseptic box of natural chicken broth at the store, which contains about four cups. When I make my own, I end up with about five times that amount of nourishing chicken stock and have enough chicken for two meals {soups or casseroles}. For a smaller family, you could probably stretch it further.

Add to large stockpot: 
One yellow onion, cut into wedges
3-4 carrots (unpeeled), cut into 1" chunks
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1" chunks
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 whole chicken, rinsed (include neck and organs, if desired)
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
Cover with filtered water by 2"

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a steady simmer and cover. Let it simmer for at least two hours, preferrably longer. You'll know it's ready when the chicken falls apart when you try to lift it out. I use a large slotted spoon to remove chicken to a plate.

Pull chicken from carcass. You may freeze bones and carcass to make bone broth later.

Use slotted spoon to remove rest of vegetables, chicken skin, and parts.

After removing chicken and vegetables, you will still have tiny particles that your slotted spoon can't get. 

Do the next two steps in your kitchen sink
Trust me, you will probably spill some of the boiling hot liquid. Consider yourself warned.

Pour the broth through a strainer into another large container. I use my other stock pot or Dutch oven. If I'm making chicken noodle soup right away, then I start adding the ingredients for that (see below). If I am not using it immediately or have too much, I pour the broth into glass jars and store it in the fridge. I use chicken broth frequently enough that I don't freeze it, but I could.

I use a canning funnel to fill my jars. The fat floats to the top and after some time in the refrigerator, it will solidify and may be removed with a spoon, if desired. These are half-gallon jars. They hold 8 cups, but I only filled them to the 7 cup mark. So, I guess you already figured out that I made 21 cups or almost 1 1/2 gallons of chicken broth.

To make chicken noodle soup:
Simply add a cup of chopped chicken, a couple of thinly sliced carrots, a sliced stalk of celery, 1/2 onion (diced), two minced garlic cloves, and 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (or to taste). Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer until carrots start to soften, add egg noodles and cook until desired tenderness. Salt & pepper to taste.

Menu Plan Monday 3/14/11

Mar 14, 2011

Soccer starts this week and we have three boys playing this season. I'll definitely need to keep up on my meal planning because if I don't, we will end up eating out too much. Wednesday's dinner idea resulted from finding Coleman's Mild Italian Chicken Sausage on manager's special.

Dinner: Beef Stew, Salad



Dinner: Beef Shepherd's Pie (I may use cauliflower instead of carrots with the potatoes)


Dinner: White Chicken Chili, Cornbread

One Tough Bug

Mar 11, 2011

{Left to right: homemade chest rub, antibiotic, homeopathic ear drops, saline nasal spray, acetaminophen, peppermint tea, vitamin C supplement. Other remedies we are using: chamomile tea, eucalyptus drops on pillow, humidifier, homemade chicken soup, and acidophilus}

This is what has been cluttering my counter for the past two weeks now. Spring always brings a nasty virus and the one going around here is a tough bug to beat. Almost everyone I've talked to has been hit by it. M2 started with it and then passed it to IB and M1. Now LJ and NG have finally gotten it a week and a half later. I started to feel it coming on but started taking Sambucol Cold & Flu Relief and the next day felt fine again. NG started taking them also but he still got it. Hopefully, it won't be as bad. The boys have shared similar symptoms and spiced it up with their own unique variations.

Fever. Congestion. Cough. Sore throat. Ear infections. Headache. Vomiting. Diarrhea. 

M2 had such a horrible cough that was causing him (and us) to lose sleep, so I took him to our doctor to make sure it wasn't turning into a secondary infection, like bronchitis or pneumonia. His lungs were clear but the PA said that his ears and throat were red. I let him know my opinion on antibiotics and ear infections and he gave me a prescription "just in case" M2 had strep and said it was my choice if I gave it to him or not. {Let me tell you that this was the beginning of my irritation with our family doctor's staff. I didn't process all of this until after I left, but if that PA had actually done a strep test, we most likely wouldn't have had to give M2 any antibiotic. And not only did he prescribe M2's first antibiotic, he wrote it for a mid-range one, Cefdinir, instead of amoxicillin and said that only about 5% of children get the diarrhea and rash with it!!  Of course, since then, I have talked to about 4 other moms whose kids took it and they said their little one got a horrible rash and one vomited.} Well, I wasn't going to give it to him but Papa Bear isn't quite of the same mind when it comes to these matters and insisted that we give it to him "just in case". Mommy doubt kicked in and I complied. Immediately, I regretted it. M2 developed diarrhea immediately and his little bottom was so red and tender that he screamed from the slightest touch. It was days before it got any better.

My normally very active son, IB, planted himself on the couch for a week, only getting up occasionally. He also had fever for about five days and looked so ill that I've been watching him closely. Of course, he broke out with several cold sores too. A curse that has been passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me and to at least one of my sons, so far. 

M1 developed an ear infection after a few days and within hours, his eardrum ruptured. We had been treating it with warm olive oil/garlic drops, warm compresses, and acetaminophen. Papa Bear took him to the urgent care and they gave him prescriptions for antibiotics and Claritin-D, claiming that he must have allergies. Another diagnosis without much evidence, so I'm not giving him the Claritin. This was the third ear infection and second rupture he's had in the past 6-8 months. We treated one infection at home and it went away in 48 hours. They have each occurred during a viral infection.
The very next morning, M1 woke up with an earache in the other ear and it ruptured too! I called our family doctor for a follow-up but couldn't get an appointment until two days later...with his PA! It takes a week or two to get an appointment with our doctor himself and he is also too busy for phone consultations. Then, when it was time for M1's appointment, we were running late because he was still feeling bad and moving slowly and was nervous about taking a shower with ruptured eardrums. I called them to let them know we were still five minutes away and was told that it is "office policy" to reschedule when you are more than 15 minutes late. Yes, being late was our fault but we probably would have still been in the waiting room at that point anyway. Since my kids don't get sick enough to see a doctor very often, I didn't realize what a pain it would be to actually see our family physician and not a PA. I chose our FP because he was of similar mind on some issues, like vaccinations and treating illness at home. We have been developing a relationship during wellness visits and then, when we actually need to see him, he's not available. Okay, I'm finished venting. Needless to say, we ended up at a convenient care and left with a prescription for antibiotics.

I've been researching every connection I can think of as to why M1 is having this problem. When he was an infant/toddler, he had ear problems but only one or two since then...until this past year. I'm trying to get him to give up dairy, but I don't think he'll stick with it. Besides allergies, other connections I've considered are his iPod {loud volume and bacteria on the ear buds} and his posture {I'm constantly reminding him to straighten up}. M1 has had orthodontic work done to correct several problems and just got his braces off a few months ago. He said that he has some jaw popping in the morning and occasional headaches. Relevant? I don't know but I'm not ruling anything out yet. I'm very concerned about the possibility of loss of hearing. I would like to be able to work with our doctor but I'm not happy with him right now. Chiropractic and an allergist are on my list to try.

Do you have any experience with their older child or adult having recurring ear infections with ruptures? I need help figuring this out. Thanks!

Conversations With LJ & Happy Birthday

Mar 6, 2011

We had a triple birthday party for M2, NG, and LJ two weeks ago but today is LJ's actual birthday. Four years old. We are going out to buy yellow balloons for the birthday boy and, later, I'll bake a chocolate cake. Because even if you've already had a party, you still have to have cake and balloons on your special day.

His gift is a new super hero cape. LJ specifically requested a yellow cape with a red lightning bolt because "lellow" is his favorite color right now. After opening his gift a bit ago, he said, "While you're driving, I'm gonna fly." 

A couple of days ago, I noticed some scratches on LJ. 
Me: "How did you get those scratches?"
LJ: "Maybe from a bear...when me and Dad went hunting last night." 

Got Ants? Need a Natural Solution?

Mar 5, 2011

We have ants. They've been coming out from under the downstairs toilet for a while. {Papa Bear and I are both afraid to see what's under our old toilet. It leans a little too.} And since someone spilled juice on our end table and it soaked into the felt pad on the base of our lamp, ants have found their way into our living room too. I removed the felt pad and scrubbed the area but they are persistent. They are only a minor nuisance right now, but I've got to do something before they invite more friends to the party or find their way into my kitchen.

Fortunately, when ants invaded our old house last year, I found Lindsay's ant trap recipe. It did the trick fast! The next morning after setting out the bait, I found dozens of ants sipping the sweet nectar to carry back to their nest. The next morning, the numbers were down. And by the third or fourth day, I didn't see any more ants.

Want to know how I did it?

Mix 1 tsp of Borax into 2 cups of hot water; stir to dissolve. Stir in 6 Tbsp of sugar. Dip a folded or crumpled paper towel into the solution, making sure it's saturated. Stuff the paper towel into a small dish, like a ramekin. Place the dish near the area where you see the ants, but out of reach of children and pets.

Sounds too easy, doesn't it? Believe me, it works. And after I did some research, I found that several marketed ant control products contain the same ingredients. It's easy and much cheaper to make your own.

Do you have any natural solutions for getting rid of uninvited pests?

Linked to Domestically Divine.

One Step Closer to Becoming an Adult

Mar 1, 2011

Last Friday was a big day for my oldest son and for us, as his parents. M1 got his intermediate driver's license, which means he can legally drive alone. He can get in his car and drive somewhere...on his own. Yes, I know that you know what that means. I'm still trying to get used to the idea.

He's been waiting for this for years. We began letting him start the car when he was about 11 and then, back the car out of the driveway to park on the street when he was 14, always supervised. We've always talked about the rules of the road while driving, explaining why we do certain things, pointing out what other drivers are doing wrong. {wink} M1 was always paying attention, soaking it all up like a sponge. When it was time to get his learner's permit, he read the whole manual in two days and passed the test with flying colors. And in the past seven months, he has read Crash-Proof Your Kids (actually written for parents), taken a four-hour state required course, watched the Rules of the Road, and has been racking up over 60 hours of driving practice time, mostly with Dad. And responded correctly to his mother's paranoid pop quizzes.

We feel that he has demonstrated good driving skills, but he's not out from under our wings yet. He knows that we still want to have supervised driving time with him and that he will have restrictions on where and when he can go out alone. We also printed off a parent/child agreement that sets up guidelines and expectations.

Papa Bear bought him a car last spring and he's been working on it, putting all of his money into it. M1 is so proud of it and himself. He has learned how to locate problems, research and order parts online, install the parts, change the oil, and understand how a car works, with some help, but mostly on his own. M1 got to experience his first solo outing yesterday when he drove to Auto Zone to buy a part for his car. I can imagine his excitement, that feeling of freedom that comes with being able to drive yourself where you want to go. My own feelings were more of the "butterflies in my stomach" variety, with a smidgen of nausea, as I watched him pull out of the driveway and drive down our street, disappearing around the corner. He texted when he got there and again to let me know he was going to the store next door to Auto Zone. And when he got home, he walked in the door a little taller.

Now that he can drive by himself, he's ready for the next big step...a job.
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