Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Cat of Bubastes


I have shared before what a special treat Heirloom Audio Productions are for us.  I consider us very blessed to be able to review them as they come out.  The newest production comes from the oldest Henty story in history so far!  Travel back to the time of Moses, to the fascinating land of Egypt, in this top quality dramatic tale, The Cat of Bubastes.


You ever have one of those days where homeschooling is just not the idyllic picture you wish it was?  We were having one of those when I told the kids to put their books away and get pillows and blankets and get comfy on the floor.


This is how we listened to the first several tracks, because once the story started, the kids didn't want to stop!  It was a fabulous way for us to hit the virtual reset button on a morning gone sour.


I used a quote from the story as our handwriting practice one day, as it really resonated with me, and is the sort of character I want my children to have.  "It is the duty of all men to give happiness to those around them, if it lies within their power."  I'm always telling my kids, "Make the world a better place."  When they ask why I throw away trash that wasn't mine at the park, or pay for the car behind me in the drive thru, I tell them I'm doing my part to make the world a better place.  Having this same concept reinforced in a story full of bravery, courage, and good morals makes my mama heart smile.

Keeping the hands busy while we listen.

The Cat of Bubastes follows a young man in captivity along with an older friend, sort of a mentor.  He becomes the servant of another young man, whose father is a priest of Egyptian gods.  The two boys spend much time together and become friends.

Coloring Egyptian cat coloring pages while we listen.

I don't want to give away what happens in this fast paced adventure story, but suffice it to say, it will keep you on the edge of your seat, like all the Heirloom Audio adaptations of G.A. Henty's works so far!


In addition to the 2 CD set we received, we also received access to some online bonus features, such as the Study Guide, soundtrack, the MP3 version of the Cat of Bubastes audio drama, the ebook of the original Henty story, a couple of printable posters, and my personal favorite, a "behind the scenes" look at the making of Cat of Bubastes.  I think PerrrrmoTEP became my favorite character during this video.  The Study Guide is a little advanced for my kids, but would make a great discussion starter for middle and high school level students.  It contains not only questions about each chapter of the story, but additional information about a wide variety of related topics.  I found the Study Guide to be a fascinating read, even though I didn't quiz my kids with it.

There's a very exciting scene with a crocodile!

We have reviewed Under Drake's Flag, In Freedom's Cause, With Lee in Virginia, The Dragon and the Raven, and Beric the Briton, and our family has enjoyed them all.  In fact, the last time Jack was sick, he laid in bed and re-listened to a couple of them.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

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Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program


Our family recently got the opportunity to review the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning.  This is an online program designed to teach reading or enhance reading ability.


This program is a sturdy, no frills program, suitable for learners of any age.  Older students who may need remedial help will appreciate the absence of cartoon characters and catchy jingles that make many phonics programs seem too babyish to use for remedial work.


Since Katie is still learning to read, I started her at the beginning of the program.  She is able to sound out most of the words on the word lists so far, and when there is a word she gets wrong, I hover the mouse over the word, and the computer says it correctly.

There is also a Reading Test on the website, where you can determine the best place to start your student, if they're not at the beginning, like Katie is.  I had Jack, who is 12, do the 3-4th grade page of the reading test, and he missed 14 words, indicating that he would also benefit from using this program.


We sit together when Katie works on Ultimate Phonics.  There are no quizzes or tests, which can be helpful for students with test anxiety, so listening to and observing her efforts lets me know exactly how she is doing.


After the word list, the program breaks down each word into tiny pieces and helps students sound them out.  I've been having Katie skip this part most of the time, since she's already able to sound out the words on her own.  Next comes the sentences, like the one pictured above.

This is one of the times when sitting with Katie while she works on the program is especially helpful.  She may be able to sound out each word, but after half a dozen words or so, cannot tell what the sentence she just read says.  So we go over each sentence twice.  Once to sound the words out aloud, then the second time, she reads the whole words.  If she needs to, she can sound out a word in her head.  By saying whole words, she is better able to grasp the meaning of the sentence.


I think the plainness of the program will appeal to homeschoolers who like Amish readers and homeschool materials without a lot of pictures and "fluff" or "twaddle" as some educational philosophies look down on such things.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

Ultimate Phonics sells for $69.95.  With this one time fee, you receive a download of the program to the computers in your household.  You can use it for as long as you like, with as many students as you like, with no additional charges.  Future updates to the program are free to you, as well.  This may be a more cost effective option than consumable phonics workbooks over time for a large family.

I like that once you download the program, it does not require an internet connection.  Our internet is slow, and having one more thing sucking up bandwidth in our household of multiple devices would not be popular.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

You can try Ultimate Phonics free for 10 days and see if it would be a good fit for the learners in your house.

You can connect with Spencer Learning on Facebook or Twitter.  To read what other Crew families thought of the Ultimate Phonics Reading Program, please click the box below.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Our Week with a Shrinking Household


Another action packed week at our house!


Josiah needed a few last minute things, which necessitated a trip to Target.  I hopped out of the van and started heading in, only to turn around and see these guys.  All in black, they make an imposing security detail.  


Miss Katie needed some time away from the other kids, so I asked her to come and do a puzzle.  She picked one of the hardest ones we have and did a great job on it.  I guess it's time to think about thinning out our tray puzzle collection, if she's already outgrown most of them.


Monday was The Big Day.  Can you believe this was Josiah's only luggage?  Talk about flying COO (carry on only)!  I remember Zach taking more stuff than this when he went into the Air Force.


Early morning goodbyes.  This was Jack.


And Eli.


And Paul.


And by the time he got to me, he was pretty much over the picture taking.


And Katie.


And Brianna.


We didn't do the big airport goodbye, because of the time he needed to leave.  Paul took Josiah to the airport, and I took Brianna and Eli to school.


I did okay until right about here, when I started to cry.


Paul sent me this from the airport.  He called after his second flight landed, so we know he made it there safely.  We won't see him again until around Thanksgiving.

Josiah wasn't the only one to take off this week.  Sam has been helping Zach and Heather with child care, so he's been staying with them a few days at a time.  With both boys gone, it's been really quiet around here.  In fact, when Paul took the girls to the dentist, it was just Jack and I here at the house.  It felt weird.


One of our writing assignments recently was for the kids to write about what they'd like to dress up as on Halloween.


Hannah picked a tiger, but when it arrived, Brianna decided it looked big enough for her to wear.


Not quite, as it turns out, but she made a valiant effort to fit in it.


I finally finished up the other nightgown that I'd cut out for Katie.  Excuse the messy bath hair.  It's actually big enough that I think Hannah could wear it.


The mornings are getting chilly, and I found myself wearing my Air Force hoodie over my Army Mom t-shirt on the way to school.  I'm so very proud of my boys!


Although I've still got a month to prepare, I'm starting to think about what these guys will be doing for school while I'm in China.  At this point, I think I'm going to have Paul keep up with math and spelling, and I'll give them packets to work independently in a couple other subjects.  We can go over the packets together once I get home.


Katie finished her handwriting book this week!  I'll have to print some pages for her to work on now that she's done with Patriotic Penmanship.


We got started on a special art project that I hope to share with you next week.  We painted wooden apple cutouts.


While the apples were drying, the kids worked on the floor.  I was amused at the crazy position Katie was in while she was writing.


Josiah's room is empty.


Which sets off a room shuffle.  We're moving Jack and Eli in here while we paint their room, and then Jack will move back upstairs and Eli will stay in here.


Because we had a visit to Shriners this week, we did our library and park run Wednesday evening instead of Thursday at lunchtime.


My little climbers discovered some interesting holes in the rock formation that merited further investigation.  I think they concluded they were ant holes.


Speaking of wildlife, Eli called me downstairs one night to check out the family of FIVE raccoons in our back yard.  Note to self, time to start feeding the cat in the house.  These were fat raccoons.


The wall that we built a year ago when Luke came home from his failed placement has come down.  With Josiah gone until at least February, and Sam leaving in January, we decided that even if the unthinkable happened again, we could shuffle things around and free up a downstairs bedroom for him in a pinch.

Luke's current placement appears to be going well, and his new mama assures me that they plan to finalize, but I won't be able to really believe it's over until the papers are signed, hopefully in December.


Friday's visit to Shriner's was a little rough.  Not because of anything medical; both the girls are doing fine.  But it was 2.5 hours (into lunchtime, of course) and we were pretty fried by the time we left.


When we were here, we met two other families, each with 2 Chinese daughters being seen.  I always love seeing other families like ours.


Katie has grown!  She was 42#, 43.5", up from 37# and 42.25" in January.

Hannah has also grown!  She's currently 49#, 48.5", up from 46# and 47.5" in January.  Poor little peanut is only an inch taller.  I'm pretty sure Katie will catch up with her at some point.


So, this was probably the last smile from Katie until we left.  Shortly after this picture was taken, Hannah was pushing Katie (at her request) and Katie fell off the chair and smacked her head on the floor.  :(

After we saw the resident and the doctor and the prosthetist, they sent us upstairs to get a part replaced on Hannah's leg.  In order to go upstairs at Shriners, you have to sign in.  So we go into the lobby, and I tell the girls, "Go push the [elevator] button," while I'm signing in.  One of the elevators opens, and Katie hops on.  I turn around and say, "Katie!  Don't ever get on an elevator without Mommy!  The doors could..." and the doors shut.  Now she was only in there by herself for a brief moment, and most kids would be fine, but Katie was not fine.  She didn't cry, although she looked very unhappy, as I got on the elevator and explained why that was a bad idea (trying not to imagine searching a 7 floor building for my child).  However, once we were upstairs, Hannah sat down and started coloring, and Katie just leaned on a chair.  I asked her a question, and she didn't even seem to understand me.  Suddenly, it clicked.  Abandonment issues.  Being alone and scared unexpectedly had taken her back to a prior scary and alone experience, and she was not "with us" yet.  I scooped her up and held her for a while, explaining that she was safe now.  That's when the tears came.


This coming week has two field trips, three reviews, another trip to Shriners (hopefully less traumatic!), and a birthday.

We've been working on getting the boys moved downstairs, which set off going through all their drawers.  Plus we're starting to have chilly weather in the mornings so I pulled out a few long sleeved things in Hannah and Katie's room and started going through their clothes, too.  We've got several bags of stuff to donate to charity or pass on to friends.  I've even started going through my own closet, now that I've got a pile going of things that are (hurray!) too big for me.  Today's jeans are 3 sizes smaller than when I was wearing in May/June.  So I'm sure we'll have several more bags of stuff to donate in the next week or two.

I'm looking forward to being able to post some "after" pictures of the upstairs bedroom, once it's painted.  It's very strange to me that Jack, my 7th child, will be getting his own room soon.  Most of the kids didn't get their own room until high school.


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