Friday, April 18, 2014

Homeschool Co-ops

**Note: Some of the pictures in the following post were taken with my phone. I have been informed that this results in them appearing upside down to people viewing my blog from their Apple devices. If so, please take a moment to perform this highly technical task: lean over as far as you can and read the blog upside down.

Any pictures that do not appear upside down to Apple users can be attributed to the fact that my father took them with an actual camera. For these pictures, Apple users may keep their heads in the usual upright position. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Sincerely, Your Occasionally Sarcastic Blogging Friend**

It wasn't until we moved to Texas that I started looking into joining a homeschool co-op. "Good friends for our kids" was at the top of our prayer list as we went through the big Illinois to Texas move and so I had some specific thoughts behind what I wanted in a homeschool co-op:

1. Not just Christian in name, but truly Christian in how the families live and how the leadership operates. This was important as I considered that co-op would probably provide friends for our children.

2. Laid-back. While some co-ops are very rigorous academically, I really wanted something fairly relaxed that would just supplement what we do at home.

Since we knew very few homeschoolers in our area at the time, I went with the old standby: Internet search. While I came up with a big list, one jumped out at me as a possibility and that ended up being the one we've attended for nearly 3 years now.

Ironically, our homeschool co-op doesn't do any advertising, so I think our co-op leaders are still a little suspicious of how I found them.

Our co-op is Mom-taught, which means you don't just drop off your kids and pay tutors. While there are some good classes that have really benefited my kids academically and developmentally - Latin, Great Empires, Chess Club, and such - it's more of a social benefit for our family. We have about 25 families in the co-op and overall it has worked really well for our family. My kids all have good, Christian friends within the group. Interestingly enough, I have developed some very dear friendships with some moms too and that has been a blessing I hadn't expected!

It lasts for a few hours once a week and that's the perfect amount of time commitment for our family.

This is from the Oregon Trail class I taught this semester ---

And Boys' PE -

Texan style with longhorn cattle looking on in the background!

From the drama class my older four were involved in this semester --

They recently performed the play "Once Upon a Woods" - my kids were the Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, Little Bear, and Hansel.

So tell me - Have you been involved in a homeschool co-op? How does yours work?

(And have a wonderful Easter weekend celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior!)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bark Park: Children's Book Review

The rhyming title of Bark Park draws you in first - I love creative titles. Bark Park was written and illustrated by Karen Gray Ruelle. The lyrical text makes it fun and fast to read.

My country kids hadn't even realized that some people actually take their canines to a place like Bark Park to walk their dogs every day. Don't all people let their dogs run loose all the time?

With the fast-paced text, Ruelle covers all sorts of dogs:

Small dog, tall dog, down the street.
Dashing, splashing, old friends meet.
Hot dog, dot dog, in the park.
Fat dog, rat dog.
Bark! Bark! Bark!

A two-page spread at the center of the book is full of onomatopoeia - all the pants, grrrs, woofs, yips, and more that must make a visit to Bark Park a rather noisy event.

The drawings are almost cartoon-style and the odd proportions add to the humor of the book. The little ones had fun pointing to their favorite dogs on each page and laughing at their antics. There was one slightly crude reference (why? I always have to ask) but other than that, Bark Park is a happy, rhyming picture book that your preschoolers will enjoy.

Peachtree Publishers is the place to find Bark Park and many other delightful picture books.

Children's Book Review: Beneath the Sun

In Beneath the Sun, the reader is taken on a journey to discover how different creatures survive and thrive in the hot summer heat.

Author Melissa Stewart covers a wide variety of animals in this newly released non-fiction book from Peachtree. The golden eagle, the horned lizard, the crayfish, and many other creatures are designed with the ability to beat the heat. Some of the creatures are ones we are familiar with, but there are several that we learned of their protective mechanisms for the first time. Did you know the male osprey soaks his feathers in the water to cool off and then brings that moisture back to his chicks to help them stay alive?

Illustrator Constance R. Bergum uses the medium of watercolors to create beautiful realistic, nature paintings for the book. The few human faces in the book didn't seem to show her skill in the same way that the animals and landscapes did, but overall I believe her artwork is an excellent choice for the book.

Some of the creatures use creative ways to survive and it's fascinating to read about them - although I think we would have been perfectly happy to not know how the turkey vulture stays cool. It involves body fluids, but you'll have to get the book to find out more! Science facts like that really apply when we sight turkey vultures, in close proximity, on our property nearly every day. Ewww.

Aside from that, I think you'll find Beneath the Sun to be a delightful book that does an excellent job of teaching about this amazing world in which we live. While the book is targeted for ages 4-8, my kids a little bit older than that range enjoyed it as well.

Peachtree is the publisher and the place to find Beneath the Sun and other great books for children!

Check out another review of Beneath the Sun at Sally's Bookshelf!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Random, Miscellany, and a Bit of This and That

For those of you who took my poll last fall and said that funny, random posts were your favorite thing to read on my blog . . .

Well, last week must have been a bit of a shock with five serious articles in a row. (although I must say, your comments were such an encouragement to me)

But in an effort to keep all my readership happy . . .

I give you -- a scatter-brained post. Possibly with occasional attempts at humor thrown in.

So what has been happening around the Toliver homestead?

First, John has been working on the front porch, which is attached to the new dining room . . .

And we finally had a rare, wind-less Texas night which resulted in my husband being able to reduce the massive burn pile to ashes . . .

Perhaps you've noticed John never does anything on a small scale. You can tell it's a generational thing - look at the grin on my oldest son's face!

And it's finally Bluebonnet Season --

Don't worry. No bluebonnets were hurt in the conflagration. Our lovely bluebonnet patch is on the other end of the property. There was one major disappointment though in the bonfire. Two actually.

One, I had no ingredients for s'more making. And, two, a mouse and TWO RATS ran out of the burn pile when the fire was started, and my husband and children (who I love dearly) were unable to kill them.

My oldest son chased one rat into the cactus patch, but he was unwilling to get his legs full of cactus for the sake of appeasing his mother's hatred of rodents. Some people's children.

The following pictures are the Obligatory Texas Bluebonnets Photos.

But, look at that sweetness . . .

A slightly less traditional bluebonnet photo entitled "Ten Year Old with Great Pyrenees/Polar Bear in the Flower Patch" --

Seriously, when that massive head is close to yours, it's hard to not think "Polar Bear".

So I was taking bluebonnet pictures and when my two year old heard me tell her older sister to lie down in the bluebonnets, she too obeyed, although this isn't quite what I meant . . .

Yes, she's wearing her pajamas. What's your point?

And if you've ever wondered what a sixteen year old young man will do when you tell him that it's his turn for the annual Bluebonnet Photo Shoot . . .

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

In other news, we have baby chicks . . .

I'm not even sure how to caption this one -- "Prince, meet twelve chicken dinners"???

Oh! And my beautiful four year old, sometimes still called Murble, is now five.

More on that birthday later . . . it involved a trip to the zoo in which one of my children was actually bitten twice by a zoo animal. Any guesses which one? Animal, I mean, not child. I'll give you a hint - it wasn't the tiger.

And my six year old got a new bike --

. . . And if you know us very well, that doesn't mean that we purchased one. Yes, another wonderful FREE find at the Boutique. When you have mesquite trees on your property that have three inch thorns (I ain't a-kiddin' you!), it's wise to just get bikes for free if possible.

And so, yet another Toliver family update comes to an end. An update that had no theme, no clear, cohesive thought, no substance, but, hey . . .

Anything to keep y'all happy!

Have a wonderful Wednesday!
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