Friday, February 25, 2011

Little Hearts For His Glory Week 2

We are on our second week of Heart of Dakota's Little Hearts For His Glory and are having a blast!  Lucy has already done My Father's World K and we were part way through first grade when we decided to switch.  It was a bit hard to do, wondering if this was really going to be better for us or not.  I realize that each program will have it's ups and downs, but MFW 1st was just not working for Lucy on so many levels.  I like what I am seeing in her these past two weeks and am encouraged that this was a change for the better.

We are enjoying the activities.  They are easy to do and so much fun.  Each day has us jumping around, creating, acting things out, and more.  Julia feels like she is more a part of our schoolwork now and even knows the correct answers to review questions quite often!  Esther (13 months) likes to join our "rhyme in motion".  Today she was shaking her finger, saying "no, no" and walking backwards just like the big girls.  It was sooo cute!

The girls are really thinking about the Bible lessons and concepts, they often come up with questions at the dinner table related to our studies that day.  I feel like things are sinking in a bit more as far as Bible application.  They also have learned both memory verses so far and love the music CD.

Other random thoughts:

I'm not sure yet how meaty the science is.  We are just getting started, but I may have to think of ways to add a bit more there.  Maybe just watching related videos on the computer with Dad at night would be enough.  The science textbook jumps around a bit, but is nice to have.  The girls have enjoyed looking at the pictures.  Yesterday's activity was a big hit, the girls spent over an hour experimenting with boats in the bathtub.

Math is really basic, but we're just going with it.  I feel like Lucy needed some easy work to boost her confidence and I'm sure it will get harder as we go.  Julia is loving the hands-on math and joins us every day.  Lucy still does a page or two from the MFW 1st grade book some days.  I do not like how Singapore math writes their 4s and 5s, especialy the 4 I think is silly.  Not a big deal though.

For phonics we are still using the MFW 1st grade workbook, Bible reader, and notebook.  As we near the end of the workbook, I think we'll start the Emerging Readers set from Heart of Dakota.  I also picked up an Explode the Code workbook that Lucy really enjoys.  We'll keep going with those for the phonics review.  I have The Reading Lesson coming in the mail for me to review.  I am going to see how Julia does with it, and maybe place Lucy towards the end of the book.  I'm just not sure how well she is retaining the information from the MFW phonics workbook and want to be sure we have a good foundation there before moving on.  I like that the phonics is not tied with the rest of the work, so we are free to move at our own pace.

I already mentioned that the teacher's book is very open and go.  I am loving this.  I really enjoy having the boxes for the day laid out in front of me.  Really.  The flipping back and forth in the MFW teacher's manuals had me feeling like I was forgetting something most days.  So far we have easily done everything that LHFHG has laid out for us.  I do like that there is still a short library list in the back of the teacher's manual, the girls enjoy having library books related to the topics.

Ok, this is enough of a novel for now.  I know that some of you were interested to hear how things went for us and wanted to share my thoughts since having the books in hand.  Feel free to ask if you have any questions and I'm sure I'll share more as we go along.  We are really enjoying Little Hearts For His Glory, I feel like we have joy back in our school days!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Cell Phones

Ross and I both got new cell phones this week.  He needed/ wanted an iPhone for work, and my phone wouldn't stay charged any more.  We did a bit of research before choosing the phones; here is what we had in mind:

- First of all, I knew we wanted a phone from one of these companies who "have publicly committed to phasing out all brominated fire retardants: Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba" link

- We then checked the EWG cell phone radiation chart.  Searching by provider allowed us to see only Verizon phones, then looking at the ones with a star by them told us which ones are currently available.  Since I was looking at non-smart phones, and I didn't want to  pay $100 for the LG Octane, the Samsung Gusto was the next best option, keeping the above mentioned companies in mind.  I used to have a pink RAZR, too bad this one only comes in black.  Has anyone tried spray painting a phone?  Just kidding...

- Ross needed an iPhone because he uses a Mac and because of all the apps he will use for work.  Although the radiation is not rated well at all, Apple does have a cool note here about their environmental commitment.  (PVC-free handset, headphones, USB cable, bromine-free printed circuit boards, mercury free LCD display, arsenic-free display glass, etc)

- We also checked out the EWG's guide to reducing radiation exposure.  Ross is going to try and use his headset as much as he can, and keep the phone away from his body when possible.

- Lastly, we are going to be sure and recycle our old phones and cords.  Mine was over four years old, so we certainly got a lot of use out of it.  (If you're local, TreeHuggers recycles just about everything you can think of.)

I do have to say, my little $10 Gusto takes much better and faster pictures than my old phone.  Ross is of course loving his iPhone.  Are you worried about cell phone safety at all?  Have you checked out the EWG's report on cell phone safety?  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Soaked Baked Oatmeal

This is probably my family's favorite breakfast!  We all enjoy this cakey tasting oatmeal.  The hardest part is smelling the wonderful aroma while we wait for it to bake in the mornings.  I usually get asked 10-12 times "Mom, is the baked oatmeal ready yet?".

The night before, mix the following in an 8x8 pan:

2 cups oatmeal
1 cup yogurt  (Stonyfield vanilla whole-milk yogurt works well.)
1/2 cup water

Cover with a kitchen towel and let soak overnight on the counter.  (Soaking grains helps break down phytates and makes the oatmeal more digestible and tasty!)  *Note: some sources say that soaking oats for 24 hours is preferable, so you could even prepare this in the morning the day before and let it soak longer.  Also, you might want to add a tablespoon of whole wheat flour to help the soaking process work properly.

In a bowl, mix:
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
(can add 1-2 cups fresh, frozen, or dried fruit)
Add this mixture to the soaked oats and mix well.  Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

Serve plain, or top with yogurt, milk, or applesauce.  We enjoy eating the leftovers cold, or reheated.

I may have to start making larger batches of this, it never lasts long around here.  Give it a try!

For more soaked grain recipes, check out Kitchen Stewardship.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Finding a HEPA Vacuum Cleaner

Did you know that the dust inside your home can be pretty toxic?  Chemicals from plastics, furniture, electronics, and more "shed", releasing toxic particles into the air and dust in your home.  PBDEs  are one particularly toxic class of chemicals that are plentiful in household dust.  PBDEs are flame retardants used in everything from electronics to couches and pajamas.  The chemicals build up in people's bodies over time and have been clearly shown to cause problems in lab animals.

"In minute doses they and other brominated fire retardants impair attention, learning, memory and behavior in laboratory animals." link

The Environmental Working Group recommends using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (high efficiency particulate air).  I've been doing some research on this recently and wanted to share what I've found and what you can look for if you are interested in purchasing a HEPA vacuum cleaner.

HEPA filters remove 99.97% of airborne particles at .3 micron size.  According to this source "The most common airborne particles are about 2.4 microns but the average vacuum cleaner only vacuums up particles from 30 to 50 microns in size, blowing the rest of the allergens back into the air. The most harmful sized particulates are about .3 microns in size." link  In addition, in order for the HEPA filter to be effective, the vacuum cleaner needs to be sealed, so that all of the air is forced through the filter.  I noticed that many vacuum cleaners throw in the word HEPA, but it takes a closer look to see if they are actually offering sealed HEPA filtration.  HEPA media filtration is not the same as sealed HEPA filtration.

Here is another thought - If I am buying a vacuum cleaner to help keep my home free of PBDEs, I need a PBDE-free vacuum cleaner.  I contacted a few manufacturers to find out what they had to say about this.  Apparently, there is a standard in Europe called the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS.  (I'm rolling my eyes and won't even comment on how once again we have to look to Europe for the safer standards.)  RoHS limits lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, PBBs, and PBDEs.  Although it does not completely ban these chemicals, it limits them to .1%.  Look for a vacuum cleaner that is RoHS compliant.

There are other considerations that I'll leave up to you - canister or upright, bagged or bagless, and so on.  Some allergy websites that I read recommend vacuum cleaners that use a bag to further contain allergens.  Other things I read suggested that when a vacuum cleaner bag is about half full it starts to drastically reduce suction power of the vacuum cleaner.  I also happened to read that Eureka has teamed up with Arm and Hammer to offer odor free bags and filters without the use of harmful chemicals.  ...which makes me wonder, are there chemicals in vacuum cleaner bags to keep them odor free?  Probably.  I'm leaning toward a bagless option.

Looking at a few of the manufacturers, this is what I found through looking at their websites and contacting customer service:

Bissell - all of Bissell's products are RoHS compliant.  They offer Airetight HEPA filtration on both the Powerclean Multi Cyclonic Bagless Vacuum and the Healthy Home Vacuum.  The Healthy Home Vacuum contains the chemical Microban, which is a negative in my opinion.  The Powerclean appears to be a good option, but doesn't have stellar reviews on Amazon and  Reviewers on seem to like it.

Eureka - sells RoHS certified vacuum cleaners as well as sealed HEPA filtration vacuums, but not both in one model.  They told me that their Clean Living and Comfort Clean lines are both RoHS certified.  The Boss (4870) vacuum cleaners have sealed HEPA filtration.

Hoover - says that they are RoHS compliant with 99% of their models, so I suppose you would still have to ask them about a specific model.  This canister vacuum cleaner is the only one I can find that says "sealed HEPA", but I have an email in to their customer service again about this.

Kenmore - I found the Kenmore website hard to navigate.  Their customer service told me that they are not compliant with RoHS.  They do sell vacuum cleaners with some type of HEPA filtration, but I did not feel like searching their website and viewing each individual vacuum cleaner to try and find the right one.  Customer service was unable to tell me if they offered sealed filtration.

Dyson - appears to have its own mini-following.  They have plenty of good reviews on Amazon, and do offer sealed HEPA filtration, although I am unclear on whether this refers to all of their vacuum cleaners or not.  I am awaiting a reply on the RoHS issue.  I am interested in looking into Dyson vacuums further so I'll let you know what I find out.  Update: Dyson is compliant with RoHS and offers sealed HEPA filtration.

Shark - at first glance appears to be a great vacuum cleaner.  However, only the direct purchase model comes with a HEPA filter, which I think is really shady.  They also have a terrible reputation for customer service.  I wrote a separate post about Shark here.

Miele - Customer service told me that all of their vacuum cleaners are compliant with RoHS.  They offer HEPA filtration on some models.  Meile vacuum cleaners are unique in that the vacuum cleaner itself is a sealed system, which would make the HEPA filtration fairly effective.  They are on the pricier end, but could be worth looking into.

As you can see, I am still waiting to hear back from a few of these manufacturers to complete my research on this.  I will update this post when I find out more.  Many of the websites did not have a way to search for "sealed HEPA" filtration or single out the vacuum cleaners that offer this, so it was hard to clearly see all the options.  If you are considering a particular unit, you may want to contact the company and ask a few questions yourself.

To recap: look for sealed HEPA filtration.  Consider whether or not the company is RoHS compliant.  After that, read reviews on Amazon and elsewhere to find out more about the model you are considering.  I am not sure we will be able to afford a new vacuum cleaner any time soon.  The idea of sucking up all of those toxins and sealing them away is extremely appealing though.  For now I'm trying not to think to hard about my extremely old beat up vacuum cleaner that probably spreads more toxins than it picks up.

Do you have a vacuum cleaner that you love or are you ready to toss it and get a new one?

Update: Read here to find out which vacuum cleaner I chose!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

This morning we enjoyed heart shaped toast with raspberry jam for breakfast.  The girls were thrilled to find new headbands and stickers on the table when they woke up.  :)  I love how excited they get about special days like this.  

Lucy and Julia enjoyed a Muffin Tin Meal for lunch - shark crackers, yogurt, clementines, heart shaped cheese, strawberries, and lunch meat for Lucy.  We also had cupcakes for dessert.  I had hoped to make some heart picks or be a bit more creative with lunch, but we ended up with a busy day.  Grandma babysat while we took Leia to the vet in the morning and then I had to leave again for a dentist appointment right after lunch.  The girls were thrilled with the tins anyway and appreciated the effort.

It was also box day!  I was so excited to have most of what we need to get started with Little Hearts For His Glory.  (We are just waiting on the science book to arrive.)  I used Swagbucks gift cards to purchase a few books from Amazon and got the rest used from someone.  I had been checking the tracking all week and was hoping my packages would arrive today.  Lucy begged to get started right away.  I really found the teacher's manual to be "open and go", because that's just what we did.  Julia joined us for much of it and had a blast.

I've spent more time tonight looking through everything and am excited.  I think it will be a good review for Lucy in some ways, and I can see both girls having a lot of fun with the activities.  For math today we wrote numbers across the top of a page and glued the corresponding amount of hearts by each number.  We are using Little Hearts as it is written, and using My Father's World for the phonics portion.  We'll also continue our Bible timeline, Bible notebook, and 100 days chart.  I think this will be a good change and am excited to see how the girls do with it.

Hope you had a fun day too!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Heavenly Homemakers Sale

Every downloadable product at Heavenly Homemakers is on sale!  
Use the code VALENTINE for 15% off!  
(good through Tuesday at midnight)  

This does include their awesome preschool curriculum - Learn Your Letters Learn to Serve, just not the print copy.  I used the cocoa recipe cards as gifts at Christmas, and recently bought the vanilla recipe cards as well.  Ok, so I also just bought the e-book Gluten Free and Good For You too.  What can I say?  We enjoy Laura's recipes around here.  I havent started the preschool curriculum yet, but am looking forward to using it with Julia.  She definitely has a caring heart and I think this curriculum will really nurture that.  Use this chance to pick up something from Laura's shop at a great price!

Click here to visit Laura Coppinger @ Heavenly Homemakers.

I am an affiliate for Heavenly Homemakers.  Clicking through my link helps support my blog, thanks!

The Beginning Readers Bible Review

I have looked through quite a few different children's Bibles in the last few weeks.

The Early Reader's Bible and The Beginner's Bible are both used by Heart of Dakota's homeschool curriculum.  I checked them out from the library to see if Lucy is ready for one of them yet.  The Early Reader's Bible is probably my favorite because of the cute pictures and simple text.  The Beginner's Bible has more information in each story, but I don't care for the pictures.  The people look bug-eyed.  We are already working through a Bible reader in My Father's World first grade along with their phonics workbook.  I think we'll continue with that for now.

We own The Jesus Storybook Bible and I have been enjoying reading it out loud to the girls.  I love the way it explains the Bible stories and really makes them come alive.  This is my favorite children's Bible.

We recently received The Beginning Reader's Bible from Thomas Nelson to review.   The publisher says this is intended for ages 4-8, but it is definitely harder to read than either The Early Reader's Bible or The Beginner's Bible.  Lucy did not want to try and read it because she said that the print was too small.  There are little verse numbers printed in the text, which I think are very distracting as well.

The Beginning Reader's Bible has full color illustrations on each page.  On some pages, the text is white because of the artwork.  I think this makes it even more difficult to read.  The artwork is well done and interesting to look at.  My girls did think that the angels were creepy looking though.  Another strange side note is that they forgot to put the page numbers in?  There is a table of contents that references page numbers but there are no actual numbers on the pages.  Its not a big deal, but does seem like an oversight.

As for reading comprehension, I think that falls on the older end of the 4-8 year old range as well.  The Bible does include some fun little activities, prayers, and verses to remember.  Overall I think this is a nice book to own, maybe we will enjoy it more when Lucy is a bit older.  

We received this book free from the publisher through  I was not obligated to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hexavalent Chromium?

Have you seen the latest EWG research?  They tested and found hexavalent chromium in 31 out of 35 cities.  Hexavalent chromium (or chromium - 6) is a cancer causing chemical.  There is no legal limit for this chemical, and water utilities are not required to test for it.

Just another reason I love our Berkey water filter.  

We recently changed out the PF-2 Arsenic and Fluoride filters for new ones.  The black Berkey elements on the top are still going strong, but these need to be replaced about once a year with as much water as we use.  We also have a shower filter that needed to be changed too.  I can totally smell a difference in the water when the shower is running!

You can read my extensive research on the topic at these links:

What's in my water? Part 1
What's in my water? Part 2
What's in my water? Part 3
Shower Filter Info

(You can click here to easily let your senators know that you support clean water!)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Safe Yoga Mat

This month I've been focusing on getting enough rest and taking care of myself.  (I'm not sure its really happened, I've been up with sick coughing kids quite a bit.  Oh well, all I can do is try, right?)  One way to promote rest and well being is to exercise during the day.  I'm so not an exercise person.  I've never been to a gym in my life.  I can handle yoga though.  I have a couple of yoga DVDs that I used when I was pregnant with Esther.  I really enjoy the feeling of stretching my body and releasing tension that yoga provides.

I don't think I have watched a yoga DVD since Esther was born.  Lets just blame it on my toxic yoga mat, okay?  Toxic yoga mat?  Yeah, just sniff one and you'll be able to smell the toxins.  Or don't.  I'm not sure exactly what they are made of, but it can't be good.  Many are PVC based, and have all kinds of junk added to them to keep them flexible.  Having your face right next to all that (while breathing deep yoga breaths!) is not a good idea.

After doing some searching for a safe option, I am very impressed with thinksport yoga mats.  While some companies just avoid the hot buttons like "BPA" or "PVC", thinksport really puts some effort into choosing the materials they work with.  You can see their chemical policy here.  Thinksport yoga mats are free of PVC, BPA, lead, phthalates, dioxins, and biologically toxic chemicals.

Thinksport agreed to send us a yoga mat to try out and I'm impressed!  The mat is a really nice size.  Lucy and Julia can both practice yoga at the same time.  (They love to do Sing Song Yoga.)  Of course whenever I try to do yoga I have Esther pulling my ponytail, Julia crawling underneath me like I'm a bridge, and Lucy trying to fit on the mat with me as well.  Having a bigger mat for all of this definitely helps.

We've tried out our new mat a few times now and really enjoy using it.  I love that I don't have to worry about toxic chemicals when I pull it out.  The mat is nice and thick, and comes in fun colors.  Now that we're all over our colds I'm looking forward to practicing yoga a bit more regularly.  No more excuses here!

Thinksport gets two thumbs up from us!

I received this product for review.  No other compensation was received and the opinions are my own.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Our Sleep Story

Lucy was an intense kid from the moment she was born.  I remember being in the hospital with her in the middle of the night, having nursed her already for several hours.  She was screaming and even the nurses didn't quite know what to do with her.  Our first nights at home were confusing - don't babies ever sleep?  Do they really need to nurse this much?  What's that schedule I'm supposed to be following?  and how?

For the first nine months I struggled to get her to sleep.  I spent hours rocking and nursing her, gently laying her down in her crib and tiptoeing out of the room.... only to be back again in 30 minutes or less.  I tried everything and read every book on sleep I could find.

During this time I was attending La Leche League meetings and hearing other moms talk about their sleep struggles.  They sometimes mentioned co-sleeping.  At first I thought even the word sounded odd, that it wasn't really something I would do, that it was kind of unnecessary.

I was exhausted.

Eventually I stopped reading all of the "How To Get Your Baby To Sleep" books and started listening to my baby.  Let the Baby Drive was a great book that really helped me relax about it all.

When Lucy was about nine months old, we turned our bed around and pushed it up against a wall in our room.  I clearly remember the day we did this, thinking "what on earth are we doing?".  Lucy slept closest to the wall, with me next to her, and Ross on the other side of me.  For the first time in a very long time I felt rested.  I didn't have to get up and sit in a rocking chair for hours on end, I could just nurse Lucy while laying in bed!  She was perfectly safe, we kept the blankets and pillows away from her ...and we all slept.

Our sleep struggles were not exactly over, Lucy still hated to go to sleep at night and woke frequently.  It was a battle that we fought for several years.  We've had various sleeping arrangements since then.  When Lucy needed more of her own sleep space (and I needed to not be kicked in the head) we pulled a crib alongside the bed and dropped the side down so she was still close to us.  She eventually moved into a big girl bed, and I honestly do not even remember exactly when that happened.

(Julia in her little toddler bed.)

Co-sleeping was a great way for us to meet the challenges of our difficult sleeper.

Julia and Esther both slept with us from the minute they were born.  I loved snuggling them as newborns.  I've since learned so much about the benefits of cosleeping - how it regulates an infant's breathing, body temperature, and more.  Waking up to a happy smiling baby giving me kisses in the morning is the best!  Esther has the cutest little habit, ever since she was just a few months old, she always flops her hand out to the side just until she is touching me.

(Esther napping.)

I nurse my babies to sleep at night and for naps.  We snuggle and cuddle and rock and hug around here.  and its okay.  Lucy and Julia both sleep in their own beds, but come in our room at night and sleep on the floor if they are scared.  Esther sleeps with us at night and naps on the floor on a pillow (and I nap beside her some days!).  It works for us.

Here is a link to some articles on co-sleeping if this is something you want to explore further.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

aden + anais snuggle blanket

Do your kids have a special sleep blanket or item?

Julia has a "mankie" (blankie with an "m") that she likes to sleep with.  She couldn't say the word blanket at the time so she called it a mankie.  Now that she can say the word correctly, for some reason that particular blanket is still a mankie.  Lucy and Esther don't really have anything.

Not that I haven't tried!  I made each girl a cute little taggie blanket before they were born.  They couldn't care less.  One time I asked the girls what toys they wanted to get rid of and the only thing Lucy suggested was her taggie blanket.  I made her keep it.  lol  I recently got these adorable little snuggle blankets from aden + anais to review.  I really tried, but I guess Esther isn't a blanket kid either.

 I did get her to play peek a boo with it for a minute before she was on to something else.

*I* think these would make the perfect snuggly for a new baby.  They come in a pack of two (in case you lose one or need to wash it), and are a thin cotton muslin with super soft satin binding.  The blankets are thin and breathable, so you could even let a little baby use it.  Just the right size to pack in the diaper bag and take along.  sigh.  Maybe I'll have a blanket kid someday.

This about wraps up my posts on sleep.  Check back tomorrow for one more. :)

Friday, February 4, 2011


Yikes!  I'm doing something I thought I would never do - changing homeschool curriculum in the middle of the year.  I started researching for the fall because I wasn't entirely happy with My Father's World this year and wasn't sure Lucy would place very well in their next level.  I intended to find something to do for a gap year before moving on with MFW.  Once I started seriously comparing and thinking about what was working for us and what wasn't... I decided to switch.  Well, sort of, I just placed my orders tonight and am excitedly awaiting their arrival.  We plan to start our new books as soon as we have them all.  Here are some of my thoughts on the topic:

Just to be clear, I think that My Father's World is a great company and admire their goals and work.  We may end up using more of their curriculum in the future.  I've thoroughly enjoying being a part of various yahoo groups for MFW users as well as their helpful message board.  I do not want to detract from their company or discourage anyone who is using their curriculum.  However, I know that I enjoy reading well thought out curriculum reviews and comparisons.  The beauty of homeschooling is that we get to tailor the learning experience to fit our children and what works best for our families.  Take my thoughts with a grain of salt.  ;)

Lucy started school when she was four.  She was ready and eager to learn.  After much thought and prayer, we started with My Father's World K.  She did very well, and continued on to MFW 1st grade this year.  There are many things I have enjoyed about MFW and our learning experience so far.  Lucy learned to read and has had many fun learning experiences.  Just so that this post doesn't become a mile long though, here are some of my reasons for switching:

(Ok, I'll let the cat out of the bag.  We're going to be using Heart of Dakota Little Hearts for His Glory.  Its quite similar to My Father's World, yet I'm hopeful it will be a better fit for us.)

- Too much work.  I felt like MFW was a bit teacher intensive.  At this point with three little kids and not a lot of planning time, I struggled to feel prepared.  Science and math both required books from the library as a pretty integral part of the learning.  Even with having an online library request system, I just couldn't stay on top of this.  We did really enjoy the math literature books and I think I will refer to that list even in the future.

-  Lack of information.  In MFW K, the teacher's manual would say things like "present information on insects" and leave me scrambling and wondering how much to cover.  Much of the science information relied on library books and the teacher finding information.  In first grade I felt like this happened with the memory verses.  The teacher's manual says to discuss the verse and apply it to your lives.  I felt like I needed a bit more of an idea on how to do that.

- Bible application.  Going along with the above thought, the personal Bible application for my child was lacking.  The proverbs studied are great, but we need more help on applying them.  There is not any direction given other than to "discuss and apply the verse".

- Bible stories.  The Bible stories (history) are read right out of the teacher's manual.  I found them to be over Lucy's head and included too much information for her.  Again, these were fairly dry with not much explanation.

- Science.  Lucy was really overwhelmed with the Usborne books used as science texts.  I feel like the pages are cluttered and there is just too much information all at once for a younger child like her to think about and absorb.  We struggled to get the experiments done.  Without a clear text to tie them to, they didn't really seem to make sense to Lucy.

- Read Alouds.  This is not necessarily a big issue for me, but reading out loud is not scheduled in the teacher's manual.  You are supposed to use Honey for a Child's Heart to find good read aloud books.  I like that Heart of Dakota schedules the read alouds and includes some discussion questions and direction in this area.

- Confusing.  As the teacher, I felt a bit confused as far as what I needed to include daily.  At times the teacher's manual would say things like "from now on, make a chart every week" or "use these games to review reading", but not remind me to do it.  The manual contains fun games and learning ideas, but I felt like I was not remembering them or getting to them because they weren't scheduled.

- Lacking.  The teacher's manual just sort of dies off and becomes pretty minimal towards the end of first grade.

Of course as you read through these and consider your own family and teaching style, these might all be reasons for you to choose MFW!  Hopefully my thoughts on this are helpful to you either way.  If you have any questions feel free to ask.

My plan is to continue phonics and math with MFW 1st grade.  Its easy enough since Heart of Dakota lets you make your own choices for these anyway.  We'll keep using the blue workbook and Bible reader for phonics as well as keep adding to our Bible timeline.  I'm going to continue MFW math for a while and switch to Singapore math once we finish the MFW book which should be about half way through.  Starting in the next few weeks will allow us to get a good portion of the way through the program before summer.  I imagine we'll take a summer break and pick back up in the fall, maybe moving to the next level in January?  We'll have to see how that goes.  For now I'm happy about finding a better fit for us and anxious to try it out!

See here for more curriculum reviews.  :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sleep Resources

Just a few of our favorite sleep things:

Twilight Turtle - Julia got this for Christmas and it was a big hit.  Even Esther really likes it.  Lucy and Julia share a room and we turn on the twilight turtle for them every night now at bedtime.  (It goes off after 45 minutes.)

Badger Night Night Balm - We will rub this on the girls noses, cheeks, hands, and chest before bed sometimes.  It smells great and they seem to enjoy it.

Sleepless In America - I'm reading this right now and enjoying the gentle yet knowledgeable approach.

The No Cry Sleep Solution - full of great ideas and tips to help your little one sleep better.  I have The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers on my bookshelf too.

Let the Baby Drive - This is not necessarily a sleep book, but it really helped me relax about my parenting and just focus on meeting my baby's needs, even at night.

What about you?  Is night time a challenge at your house?  I'm working on writing about our sleep story and some of the struggles we've had with the girls.  Check back in the next few days for that.