Thursday, August 28, 2014

When You're in Grand Rapids . . .

Grand Rapids Public Museum
After our stop in Chicago, but before our presentations in Michigan, and during our camping days on the shores of Lake Michigan - are you still with me? - and after our time in southern Illinois and Kentucky, but prior to our visits in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, (whew - big breath) we spent a day in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If you're confused, now you know how we felt while we were on the road for the entire month of July.

Much of our trip was devoted to giving ministry presentations and making new contacts for Wycliffe Associates. However, we made a stop in Grand Rapids that was one of the highlights of our trip.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum is a little gem nestled in western Michigan. I was given complimentary tickets for my review here on the blog, but it would be worth every penny for us to go back.

You can find bigger museums than GRPM. And bigger museums may have bigger budgets and bigger exhibits, but that doesn't necessarily make them better. When it comes to museums, smaller is often better. And in the case of GRPM, that's definitely true!

From the first step in the door, it's incredibly appealing to the whole family. Many of their exhibits are grouped in a very creative A-Z format . . .

Such as A is for Automobiles . . .

And D is for Dolls . . .

(I love those "Please touch" signs.)

And the dollhouses were exquisite and amazing!
The drawers were full of things to explore and my girls were enthralled.

G is for Games --

That was one of the first things we encountered when we arrived and we spent a lot of time at that spot - it was a truly hands-on, interactive exhibit that kept the kids busy for a long time.

The museum has a wide variety of exhibits that appeal to young and old -

One place we all enjoyed was in the Old Streets of Grand Rapids exhibit . . . 

I was very impressed with the volunteers in that area.
They were very gracious and patiently explained things like the old vacuum (pictured above)
and the old printing press.

The press actually does printing jobs and we were privileged to see it at work.

The wide range of interactive displays and the slower pace of the museum made it 
accessible and enjoyable for the whole family. Even our youngest!

Two years old is not too young to learn the art of rock polishing --

A visit to GRPM is pleasant, quiet and peaceful. We didn't feel rushed.
It's not loud and overwhelming like other bigger museums we've visited.

The layout was excellent and allowed us to take our time
looking at wonderful sights like this miniature village . . . 

Or the LEGO exhibit which was the very first thing that caught my attention when I saw the GRPM website. Not only did they have an area that captivated the kids for a long time (aren't LEGOs the best toys ever?), but they also had some incredible architectural LEGO sculptures on display.

I'm nearly finished (I heard that sigh of relief!) but I have to show you the following picture to demonstrate why it's important to marry someone with a different skill set than what you yourself possess. When we see anything mechanical or machinery related and one of the kids asks me about it, my answer would have to be, "I have no idea."

And then there's John. He's one of those rare people who can look at a piece of equipment, even one he's never seen before, and can comprehend how it works and why.

Here he's explaining to the children (who obviously know better than to ask their mother by now) how the power got from the big steam engine to the carpenter's shop and then how it was distributed to various tools. At least that's the best summation I can give you.

Next time you're in Michigan, take the time to visit Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Museum. For the Toliver family, it was a wonderful, memorable part of our very busy month of travel!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Put Those Toddlers to Work!

Now before you start accusing me of anything, please note that I'm not exactly sending my two year old to work in a coal mine for eighteen hours a day.

We try to limit it to twelve hours. (This picture was taken before her coal mine shift for the day)

Oh, I kid. But today I want to address a topic I hear from moms frequently: children and chores. Some moms feel guilty because their kids are doing jobs that the mom thinks she should be doing. But realistically, you're not doing your kids any favors if you fail to teach them to work.

It may be faster to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer yourself . . .

But then you realize that the toddler actually thinks it's a lot of fun . . . 

She knows she's helping Mommy (the same Mommy who should have done the toddler's hair first) . . .

And one day you discover you have a child that can sort a load, get the load started, hang it on the clothesline (Texas heat and wind = clothes dry instantly!), fold it, and put away.

And it may be faster to prepare the food yourself, and there is less chance of pre-chewed beef in the homemade potpie . . . 

(It's important to note that the child pictured above was NOT the one who was pre-chewing the beef when she was a toddler!) . . .

But if you keep working to teach your kids to work in the kitchen,

And let them work right alongside you,

Then one day you discover you have a couple of girls who can completely prepare a meal from scratch with no help from Mom.

The goal is to prepare them for life and to show them that they are an important part of the family. We all work together and contribute to keeping things running (relatively) smoothly!

So make the effort to teach them to work and you will all benefit from it.

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men." Col. 3:23

Saturday, August 23, 2014

UberSmart Software: TOS Review

UberSmart Software is taking math back to the basics with UberSmart Math Facts.

UberSmart Math Facts is a downloadable software that you can keep and use forever. David Kocur is a homeschooling dad who wrote the program to help his own children in their mastery of math facts. It teaches the basic math facts and helps the student review them as needed.

Rather than lots of extraneous games (which can be distracting!), it keeps it to the bare basics and helps your child focus on mastering the facts. The program works well for a wide variety of ages because it does everything from teaching basic keyboard skills (number entry) to testing a mastery of the math facts.

For kids that find competition is appealing, they can race against time and compare scores. Some students really respond to competition and it motivates them to improve; others just find this stressful! (I have some in both categories)

Essentially this is a computerized flashcard-based drilling program. Most students do need frequent review and programs like this are nice to have available because they don't require my constant interaction.

Here's How We Used It:

This was ideal for review of all addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I could start each child on whatever I wanted them to review (such as adding 3s) and choose whether or not to "shuffle" them or to do them in numeric order.

This is also good "busy work". When a child is waiting for me or for a sibling they're supposed to work with, they can fill that time productively with several minutes of UberSmart. As the teacher I can adjust the time limit for tests and this is great for my kids who tend to get stressed out when the clock is ticking! In this way, I can gradually have them improve their time.

Tracking is another effective part of this program and I can see what my child's response time is as well as what is just not clicking for them.

A Few Things We Didn't Like:

*The dot cards (like dominos) were set up in a confusing way. I wish this had been more straightforward to figure out.

Is it just me or does that screen shot above take awhile to figure out what they're asking?? I had to explain this to my kids multiple times.

*I did have some frustrations with the download and it was not as user friendly as I would have liked. We were on the road at the time and I was hoping to have the kids work on it in the van, but the download had to wait until we were home and then it wasn't very simple.

*I would have liked to be able to use this on my Mac.

Note: only for Windows 7, 8, XP, and Vista.

I think with some polishing up this could be a great little math program that takes away the extras and gets back to basics. The price is reasonable - $24.95 - and the program is 100% guaranteed. It also can be used by 8 or more students (I had it set for four of my kids) which makes it very economical for big families! Technically, it's for grades K - 6, but it's effective for any child that needs a good math review.

Check out the Schoolhouse Review Crew for more UberSmart reviews.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wearing Shoes is Always A Good Idea

Do you notice any similarities between these two young ladies?

They're my daughters, obviously. They have dark brown hair, dark brown skin, and dark brown eyes.

Yes, those are the obvious things. But there is one more similarity that you may not be aware of: both of these girls love to be barefoot.

Which has led to another similarity.

In the past two weeks, we've had to go into the Center clinic to have large foreign objects removed from the soles of their feet. I don't think they planned to imbed splinters in their feet within such a short time, but it seems a little ironic.

This girl had a thorn that festered in her foot and despite her father's best digging efforts he was unable to get it out.

So she got to go to the clinic and have a fun little shot of anesthesia followed by digging and cutting which made her mother nearly lose it.

Thankfully, I'm good at putting on that fake mother's grin and pleasantly say, "Oh, yes!" multiple times during the minor surgery . . . and cause my teenage daughter to say, "Next time, Dad is coming with me instead."

Yesterday was my 10 year old daughter's turn to imbed something in her foot.

We're doing our best to help the Center clinic reach their budget for the year. Grr.

You can tell she was in a lot of pain at this point --

Ha! She's actually one of my toughest, most pain tolerant kids. So even when they stuck the needle in to deaden it and dug out the largest splinter the doctor (or my splinter-prone husband) had ever seen -- she barely flinched.

It was also a great opportunity to get caught up on her tetanus shots.

With that said, we are IMMENSELY blessed to have the Linguistics Center clinic. Would you like to guess what the combined cost was for both girls to have local anesthesia, foreign object extraction, and a tetanus shot? Less than $150 - total. Just imagine what the cost would have been if we had gone in to a regular doctor. Thank God for our Center doctors who volunteer their time.

Now if I can just convince the blue-eyed two-year-old in backwards pajamas to keep HER shoes on!

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