Monday, November 24, 2014

If You Ever Consider Taking All of Your Kids to a Formal Banquet . . .

Have you ever walked into a fairly formal banquet with six young children and had to walk all the way up to the front of the room and you feel like everybody is staring at you because no one else has kids at the banquet and people have to leave their tables to make room for you and when you sit down the first thing that happens is that your very verbal toddler loudly announces she wants to go to sleep?

No? Oh, never mind. Apparently, things like that just happen to me.

Last week our two older kids were serving at a completely different Wycliffe banquet, and we were invited to attend a Wycliffe Associates banquet. It's possible that we were just there as table-filler.

(If you want to learn more about the relationship between all the various Wycliffe organizations see: The Nobody Really Understands It Because It's Enormous file).

While we work really hard to train our kids to sit still and handle new situations properly, it was hard to not find the situation humorous. I kind of felt like the bull in the china shop.

Remember when I told you about only letting my kids have one "picky food"? Well, apparently the part about "That doesn't apply when we're out in public" didn't get through to my nine year old.

She took one look at the marinated vegetable salad and quietly asked me if she could change her "picky food" to marinated vegetable salad. Um, no, dear.

In this picture we're all laughing at John because he's afraid my dad's camera flash is going to reflect off of his bald spot. (We love you anyway, honey!! Your bald spot is barely noticeable at all! Ahem.)

With that said, the evening was excellent, the speaker was fantastic, the food was delicious, and hopefully we weren't a deterrent to any people who want to give generously to the ministry of Wycliffe Associates.

These Wycliffe Associates banquets are hosted all around the United States and are really a great way to get to know more about Bible translation. Look up this link to find out more. The banquets are free and you can even bring children if they've had their naps first . . .

Monday, November 10, 2014

Purposeful Design: TOS Review

Purposeful Design, written by Jay Schabacker, tells all about our amazing creation which points to our even more amazing Creator.

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation is a "coffee table-style" book which appeals to some people who wouldn't normally pickup a book about creation. The format is one that catches your eye and keeps you flipping through the pages.

With a clean, open layout, lots of white space, and a slightly larger size font, Purposeful Design covers great material without being overwhelming. This encourages you to browse multiple times; that's a great feature for people like me who tend to read super fast and end up skimming sometimes! The photography is appealing as well.

Jay Schabacker has an interesting and varied background in a number of areas including church ministry, finance, and aerospace which gives him a unique perspective on the issue of creation and design.

On their website, you can also find a free resource to complement the text of Purposeful Design. The Young Explorer's Club workbook supplements your teaching - particularly with elementary age kids. It's 30 pages long and we downloaded it and printed up most of it (simply because I'm old-fashioned and like paper in my hand!). You can download a teacher's guide as well which enables you to have the answers in hand along with award certificates for your kids.

This workbook has a lot of fill-in-the-blank type questions that help the student recall what the main book taught. It also has many Biblical references which support the text - I appreciate that most of the verses are completely written out so the student can access them much more easily. There are also a number of questions that require the student to contemplate how different aspects of creation impact us today. Overall, the workbook is straightforward and would complement any science or Bible/apologetics curriculum perfectly.

Some highlights from Purposeful Design:

  • Stars are perfect designed (and aligned!) to be useful for navigation.
  • From the camel to the cow, domestic animals were created purposefully to serve us.
  • The graphics for ocean tides and the atmosphere/"rain cycle" were just two of many that made a complex subject easy to understand.

Thoughts from my kids:

14 year old daughter: I wouldn't have realized that it is intended as a textbook because the layout is done so well. Schabacker is a good writer and made the book very interesting. Much of what he said were things that I already knew but he had a chapter for each day of creation and I really liked the section on the stars. I loved the water section and the graphics he showed for the water cycle and evaporation.

13 year old son: The part of about the atmosphere was interesting to me. On the Day 5 chapter, it talked about how fish move their tails back and forth to propel themselves forward, but whales do that in an up and down motion. Man copied some of God's design for fish when they invented the submarine. It really shows how God is the Designer and these things can't happen by accident. The author talked about how his fascination with the study of things like astronomy was what made him write the book.

11 year old daughter: My favorite parts of the book was about plants and the trees. It showed how plant life changes throughout the seasons and how God made it beautiful for us to enjoy. I also liked the part that talked about the designers for the Ground Zero memorial. They were able to line it up so the sun shines through at the exact time when the WTC collapsed in 2001. It could only do that because our rotation around the Sun is so predictable - God created it! I also liked Chapter 6 - it talks about parts of the body, like the brain.

Ages: Appropriate for the whole family

Price: $18.95 for this hardcover book - discounts are available for multiple books purchased

Find Purposeful Design on Facebook. Read more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Craziness in My Front Yard

We have five obese sausages running around in our front yard -- also known as puppies.

They're growing like weeds.

Really, really fat weeds . . .

Who like to sleep and live in their food dish . . . (no, this is NOT a posed picture!)

Although this weekend they also discovered the joy of chasing chickens (unfortunately they learned this from their mother) . . .


Puppies are kind of like toddlers -- it's a good thing they're cute.

(Oh, seriously, isn't she the cutest little bunny??!)

Seven weeks old now -- Great Pyrenees/Husky mix. Here's the father, Prince --

We're hoping the puppies take after his personality more than the mother's. He's calm, great with kids, and most importantly, not a chicken chaser.

Puppies, anyone?

My husband is even willing to throw in several non-mouse-catching cats and a couple of irritating roosters who can't tell the time . . . no extra charge.

Friday, November 7, 2014

IXL: TOS Review

IXL is an online math and language arts program - "Practice That Feels Like Play" is the tagline on their website and we certainly found this to be true for our kids. It has something for grades K-12 and it got a lot of use at the Toliver house for every child in that range.

For my review, we received a full year access to both of their programs -- IXL Math and IXL Language Arts. Look at all these options:

IXL Math: Here's a screen shot of the math drill work we did most frequently:

Rewards are a great thing for certain personality types and my 13 year old is one of those kids who likes a reward. It keeps him motivated and interested in doing more.

This sidebar really kept all of my kids motivated for both time elapsed, awards won, and for the progress they'd made on the SmartScore. The instant feedback is a great reward for most students!

Speaking of my 13 year old:

He's definitely the one who loved IXL most and he actually begged to play it on a daily basis. He definitely struggles with keeping his math facts straight sometimes and - since review is essential for most kids anyway - IXL has been a great way for him to keep those skills sharp.

There are an immense number of options for skills your child can work on (I believe I heard there are over 3000!) - here's an example from third grade math:

I like the way this is set up because although it's listed by grades you can easily ignore grade level (which many homeschoolers do) and just go according to the skill on which your child actually needs to work.

IXL Language Arts: Like IXL Math, there is a huge variety of subjects to choose from that will fit your family's needs. Some specific issues that we addressed with the IXL Language Arts program were as follows:

  • Capitalization errors
  • Verb tense
  • Antonyms
  • Plural/possessives
  • Replacing nouns with a pronoun
  • Frequently misused words
  • Using within context
  • Subject/verb agreement

One of the great things about the entire IXL program - both the Math and the Language Arts - is that with an immense array of choices, you can find exactly what problem areas your child has and address them one by one.

I believe that you could go through IXL's lists in an orderly fashion and you could use it for a complete math or language arts program. The only thing to remember is that IXL is not designed to be a teaching program, more of a supplemental drill or practice program, but I still think it could come close to being a complete curriculum particularly if you're at a point where you're not ready to dive into a full curriculum yet.

We used Math a lot more than Language Arts, simply because it fit in best with what we need right now. The pricing (see below) is set up so you can conveniently choose to subscribe to just one or both online programs.

As the parent, you can set it up to receive emails regularly that report on your child's progress as well as  telling you exactly how much time each child spent on a subject. Another thing that appeals to me about IXL is that it gives my kids constructive "busy work" to do while I'm focused on another child. Usually I would have two kids - for example, my 11 year old and 13 year old - work on math problems together on IXL so they're learning as their sibling does. They always need review so this worked very well for us.

Pricing: The cost of this program for one student is $9.95/month for one subject, or $79/year for one subject. Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year. An annual subscription for one child for math is $79; for math AND language arts, it would be $129. For two children for math, it is $99 for the year; for math and language arts, it would be $149.

Ages: suitable for grades K-12 - we used this with all of our kids who fell within the age range. Language arts is specifically for grades 2-8.

Read more reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Also find IXL on Facebook.

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