Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Christi the Coupon Coach: Couponing Made Simple {Review}

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Couponing Made Simple by Christi the Coupon Coach is written for those who may have been interested in couponing but haven't yet taken the plunge. This book begins with several success stories of people who tried her method and saved large amounts of cash!

You'll read about people who recieved amazing deals:
$124.01 worth of groceries for $41.11
$54.40 worth of products for $1.55
$99.78 worth of groceries for $10.05
You'll see a snapshot of the products they received and how they accomplished such an amazing goal!

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The second section teaches you a "new way to shop." She shares two main keys to help you use your coupons effectively and efficiently!
The chapter I enjoyed the most was "the language of couponing." The author defines the terms commonly used in the arena of couponing, some of which helped me have a better understanding of how to receive the most bang for your buck!

My Experience:
Well, I have in fact tried couponing in the past and to no avail. I have kind of been turned off since I had heard all this rage about couponing.  I realized I would spend more with the coupons since I would be tempted to by things that I normally would not buy. But, with the prices of food on the rise, I thought I would give the principles of this book a shot again. I mean, a lot of what she had mentioned I had some understanding of since many of my friends are couponers. Coupon match-up sites, the concept of buying more than one Sunday paper for the inserts, etc. I also am fully aware of the time that goes into couponing. The author provides great tips to stay organized and efficient but when one begins their couponing journey they need to understand that time needs to be set aside to clip, organize and search online for deals and match-ups at your local stores. As a homeschool mom, my free time is very limited and are usually packed with other commitments  or activities that cause me to have no extra time for couponing!

After reading this book I did go out and buy a Sunday paper and was hoping to find some deals. I found 2 or 3 things I would enjoy, but they were "luxury items" and not anything I needed, so I decided to save my money and not get them just to get a good deal. 

The main reason I am not into couponing is because our family is trying to get away from as much store-bought food as possible. It will be a process, but we are in the beginning stages of that process! If I start couponing I feel it is a step backwards for me. The bulk of our groceries are produce and meat. There usually are not coupons for these items, and if there are it is not the type that we find are healthy. One day we'd like to grow all of our own food. We have some small gardens this year and plan to increase them each year!

Even though this book is not for me, I appreciate the heart of the author and her desire to share her proven method with others who could benefit from it. She even has the gospel message in the book which is bold and wonderfully written!


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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Picaboo Yearbooks {Review}

Looking to make a keepsake for your homeschool this year? The only limitation you have is your imagination when it comes to creating a Picaboo Yearbook. This year I was able to document our homeschool year in a sturdy, quality-made 20 Page Softcover Yearbook! When I first entered the homeschool scene a few years ago, I visited the local co-ops in the area. One local group had on display their annual yearbooks for the homeschoolers in their organization. I thought that would be a neat idea when the kids are older and kind of put the idea on the back burner. Then, after looking around my house I realized that "photo albums" are a thing of the past. Instead of photo albums, my living room is beginning to be filled with photo books. What better way to capture the memories of homeschooling than by making a family yearbook. I love the one we created and could see myself making one each year for them!

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Soft Cover 20-Page Book   
$8.49 (+ $8.99 shipping)
{ add $.22 for each additional page}

Hard Cover Books are also available at a slightly higher cost

E-Yearbooks are FREE to Schools

Great for all ages 
Pre-school through College

If only we had this program available to us my freshman year of high school when I was on the Yearbook Staff. (No, I'm not telling you what year that was, but yes, it was before I had even HEARD of the term "email" much less the Internet!) Back then, you had to buy software that you would use on a computer that ran slower than molasses! The quality was good at the time, but times are changing and so is the way we can make yearbooks. This site is completely homeschool-family friendly but seems to be set up primarily for schools and other organizations. It has a professional feel to it and you need to allow yourself some time to peek around and check out all the features that the site has to offer before diving in. If you can't seem to figure it out the site has a "Live Chat" option to help you through the process. 


Pictured above is a screen shot of your library of yearbooks on a bookshelf, Ones that you are currently working on, or ones that you've done in the past. Again, great for schools of all sizes! Once you begin the process of working on your yearbook you can assign administrators who can access the yearbook. If you have a committee of people working on a yearbook in a school, club or co-op, you can permit them access to your book. If you want them to be able to change content, you can give them permission to do so, if you want them to simply to be able to add photos, that is an option too. You also have the option to have different sections in your book, so if you want an area for "clubs," "field trips," or other events you can add however many pages you want to each section. Then, when done, the main administrator can lock that section until it goes to printing!

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The first three pages I used to highlight each of my children. We had professional photos taken this year so I took a really cute one of each of them and gave them each a whole page. I then found a scripture for each of them and mentioned what grade they were in. The rest of the book included field trips, activities and other homeschool related photos!


My favorite feature of this site was the variety of backgrounds that you could choose from. You could simply use one of your own pictures and have it fill the whole page or you could select a background and make a collage. Either choose a pre-made template or create your own. I basically found a picture for each page that matched the theme of my pictures and I had a blast! Below are two beach themed backgrounds to compliment our beach photos!

I loved being able to showcase projects and activities from our homeschool year!

Here I added text and you could also add designed "stickers"

You could use your own pics for the backgrounds as well, but I enjoyed using theirs way too much!


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5 Ways To Involve DAD in Your Homeschool

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Plan them around Dad's work schedule. I know many co-ops and groups plan field trips during the weekday and it can be fun to simply get out of the house, but after doing a couple of those I kept thinking to myself, "I wish my husband was here!" I wanted him to experience these events with the kids and enjoy this age while they were still young! I'm not talking about family vacations or outings but planned, educational field trips. This may seem challenging at first, but is well worth it for the whole family! Museums, farm visits and other activities can allow for dad to enjoy the perks of homeschooling as well! 

We kid around with the children and friends that my husband is the "principal" of our school, but in reality that is what he is! I run the large curriculum choices by him first, he trusts my judgement with the little day-to-day activities but has his final say with big investments. I also try to save some of the kid's work each week for him to look over and see how the children are progressing.

We recently took a class in our church called Growing Kids God's Way, an 18-week parenting class from a biblical perspective. One suggestion they mention is having dad write special "notes" to his children. There is something special about receiving a note from your dad. It doesn't have to be deep or lengthy, just written by dad for the child. Leaving this with their school work as a surprise once in a while is a special gesture. I love watching their little faces when they find them!

If you find yourself looking over the lessons plans for a week and find something that you think your husband would enjoy, break out of the mold! Put it on hold until he is home and do it later in the evening that day or on the weekend. Make it a point to involve him if it's something he enjoys or has knowledge in! An in-depth science experiment, woodworking or electronic activities or even educational YouTube videos!

Maybe there is something dad wants you to incorporate into a particular day's lesson but isn't there to implement it. A Bible verse he wants the kids to memorize or a scavenger hunt using a compass with a map made out by dad himself! Surprise the kids once in a while with an activity created by dad and have the children share their experience with him when he comes home!

A Quick Tip

Do you want to be able to save crafty items for your homeschool without being considered for an episode of "hoarders?" You know what I mean. You throw out the toilet paper roll or peanut butter jar KNOWING that you could use that for a craft in the future, you just aren't sure which one quite yet. You are nervous about having a pile of junk lying around so you throw it out. Then, when an activity arises that calls for "simple household items" you do not have them on hand and have to end up buying something! 
Sound familiar?
A quick tip that I use to remedy this situation is super easy. I simply took my kid's old toy organizational system that they weren't using anymore and put it in my pantry.

Then, when I would come across an old jar that I thought would be great for the kids to catch bugs with, or a plastic item that would be great to hold paint, I would organize it in these bins. If they get full, then I quit collecting. But interestingly enough, since the items are there, organized and easily assessable, they do in fact get used! 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Teaching Techniques for Deaf Children {Guest Post}

The following is a guest post written for Thrift Schooling by Paul of YourHearing 

Teaching Techniques for Deaf Children
Whilst there are special schools established for children with hearing impairments, it is the goal of the National Deaf Children’s Society to bring deaf children into the classroom with other children their age. It is their contention that Inclusion should be the underlying educational model and that including children in classroom activities is vital to their development. Because of this, teaching techniques for deaf children aim at allowing for their growth within a group of pupils without impairments.

National Curriculum Sets Criteria for Teachers
With the goal of ‘inclusion’ in mind, the National Curriculum has identified three underlying principles for teachers to follow when working with deaf children. All techniques are developed around these principles which are:
  1. Learning challenges must be set realistically (suitable challenges)
  2. Being able to respond to a diversified group of pupils with varying levels of needs
  3. Focusing on overcoming the potential barriers which hinder learning in individuals and groups
As a result of these goals, the Teacher Training Agency (referred to as the TTA) produced a core development programme entitled “the National Special Educational Needs Specialist Standards.”  In other words, teachers and headmasters must learn to identify specific needs of a pupil, or group of pupils, and then set an effective curriculum in keeping with these standards.

Innovations Used by Teachers in the United States
Before discussing standards in the National Curriculum, it is noteworthy to mention new techniques developed by teachers in the United States. As of the past several years, teachers have developed a combination of visual phonics and one-on-one instruction. It has long been known that vowel sounds are the most challenging to teach the hearing impaired or deaf children so they have developed methods of using their fingers to help pupils differentiate long from short vowels.
Based on the methods of a former deaf educator, Beverly Trezek who is now a professor at DePaul University, teachers use visual clues to indicate whether a vowel sound is long or short during lessons. It was always the assumption that deaf children couldn’t learn phonics in the same way as those without impairment, but with this new method of visual clues deaf pupils are learning phonics as well.

Areas of Focus Established by the National Curriculum
When establishing teaching techniques for deaf children, the broad focus has eight different ‘categories’ and a ninth being any combination of the previous eight. The techniques teachers should utilise, not necessarily in this order, are:
  1. Lipreading
  2. Listening
  3. Gestures
  4. Facial Expression
  5. Mime
  6. Speech
  7. Writing
  8. British Sign Language
Since each of these is presented in a different way, it is imperative to take the time to understand ways in which to deliver the lesson so that students get the benefit of instruction. For example, teachers should recognise the fact that it takes a great deal of focus and concentration to read lips. In fact, much of lipreading is guesswork! Make sure to be in a setting where the pupil can benefit from a close visual on your face whilst learning to read lips.
Combining the American innovations discussed above with the National Curriculum strategies, teaching techniques for deaf children can be greatly enhanced. Whether the pupil wears a hearing aid or is totally deaf, each of these techniques can be modified to that child’s particular needs. Bearing in mind that lipreading takes a great deal of guess work on the child’s part, make the lesson fun by using mime, facial expressions and gestures to help them learn.
Keep classes small and provide individual therapy/lessons. The more fun you can have with your pupils whilst helping them learn the art of communication, the more successful you will be with teaching techniques for deaf children – and remember, they are children after all so be patient above all else.

Bio: Paul from YourHearing enjoys helping children with hearing impairments learn to communicate in the world around them. Some children need less help than others because they are only partially impaired and can benefit from hearing aids. Others need maximum instruction and support.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Noah Webster: Father of The Dictionary {Review}

Noah Webster: Father of the Dictionary
by Isabel Proudfit is a must-have resource for every homeschool and private school in America. When I received this book I thought it would be more of a resource for me the parent/teacher, but in reality I see this as an excellent resource for children ages 8 and older. I gained much information from this book and would recommend it for parents and teachers alike. I also see the need for children, even at a young age to explore the history and truths of this time period in a way that this book creatively provides. 

Noah Webster played an integral role at a pivotal point in history; the foundation of this nation. The author did an astounding job of taking you back to the late 1700's through imagery and stories rather than boring, rote facts. I appreciate her style of writing which draws you into the historical moment. It was one of those books I did not want to put down at night, but had to knowing I had to rise early the next morning to take care of my personal responsibilities!

The foundation of this country in relation to education has been drawing much attention among the Christian church recently. We have strayed so far from the roots of our founding fathers who clearly wanted to establish a nation on Christian doctrine and principle. This book brought into that time period in a fresh new and entertaining way.

The education that Noah Webster received was at a young age. He knew more at the age of sixteen than I do in my thirties and with educational resources constantly at my fingertips. He developed a love for learning in the midst of his farming lifestyle. The availability of education was not there for poor farmers like himself but he fought tooth and nail to succeed. Once achieved he fought again to make sure that such knowledge was available to everyone, not just the elite. It is interesting reading how his dreams and ambitions affected the rest of his family, primarily his father, in the process.  

I highly recommend this book for a student wanting to do a book report on Noah Webster's life or for simply entertaining historical reading!

 Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Back 2 School Supply List {PreK-3rd}

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This is a frugal site, trying to encourage thrifty homeschooling. Yet one problem I have noticed for me is...Pinterest. That's right. So many cute crafty teaching ideas and methods that look like so much fun- but they are not free. When I first started finding fun ideas on Pinterest I made the classic mistake. I went to JoAnns and spent waaay too much money on what was supposed to be a "thrifty" craft idea. It was one of those cute front facing book holders, I thought the kids would love them! I spend three times what I should have in materials and they were broken in less than 3 months. 

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. 

Now I haven't completely given up on Pinterest but lets face it, if I don't have the materials on hand, or if I can't obtain them easily, then I will probably simply pin it and forget about it! 

What I've been doing recently is making a mental note of materials that could be helpful throughout the year even if I don't need them right away. This list is not something I plan on printing out and going out and buying everything in one shot at full price. Rather, I form the list and then keep it in the back of my mind when I hit thrift stores or yard sales in the summer!

 3-Hole Punch:
 If you plan on printing out notebooking pages for a nature journal or a literary course then having a 3-hole punch on hand is helpful. Many homeschool curriculums are offering their student activity pages in PDF format. In this case, I print it out in one sitting and then get out my hole punch so I can get it in a binder right away. At first, I would print out each  lesson the night before but that became too tedious. Putting it in a binder right away was more effiecent. 

Believe it or not my husband found one of these for free in a bag of discarded yard sale leftovers! It even came with some laminating sheets. Score! I didn't use it right away in my homeschool but now with so many printable ideas on Pinterest this will certainly come in handy. Trust me. I've tried printing things out and using them in our homeschool only to have them rip and tear. Laminating actually saves you money because you can reuse your printed materials! I plan on using this for some pre-school activities and even word wall words for the older kids!

This is an obvious one but last year I found myself going to the store and buying some at the "beginning" of the year when we were trying to get organized. They don't cost a lot but when you need some for mom and several for different subjects, graded papers, etc, it's good to stock up early! Sometimes decent, unused ones can be found at Goodwill or yard sales. 

If you see some on sale at your local supermarket buy it now and store it somewhere other than your kitchen. Save it for school related projects only! This way if a craft calls for homemade play dough or clay, you aren't breaking into to your pantry and using up your precious food supply!

Electric Pencil Sharpener:
Sure I have several of those cheap, plastic handheld ones but an electric sharpener helps the day go by so much smoother! Even if I am sure to have several pencils sharpened at the beginning of the day, one is sure to break. This way the problem can be fixed quickly and efficiently! Again, as soon as I began wanting one for our schoolroom, I began looking at thrift stores and indeed I found several!

Monday, July 8, 2013

PreScripts Cursive Words and Drawing {Review}

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Classical Conversations is a classical education method with a biblical standpoint. I had the opportunity to review one of their handwriting notebooks: 
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This notebook is geared towards 5-10 year olds. Classical Conversations also provide materials for children as young as age 3 up through high school.

I had attempted to introduce the concept of cursive to my oldest son when he was four. Is that crazy?  I may have been a little over zealous but we only made it through a little over half of the alphabet when I realized I should probably focus on perfecting his letters in standard print first. Interestingly enough, we are STILL working on this two years in the running! Even so, he still remembers the early days of cursive and often times asks for a cursive worksheet to work on, just for fun! When I saw this particular workbook I knew that I wouldn't be pulling teeth for this one!

When I received it in the mail and opened it I was glad that I had already taught my son the basics and foundations of cursive writing because even though this is geared towards young writers, I found it challenging. Fortunately, my son is up for the challenge! The way the book is set up is there is enough work to do 4 or 5 pages a week for an entire school year. I was happy to read that younger children might find it easier to do half a page a day. That is exactly what my son did! Except for the first lesson... The first two pages have the entire alphabet in cursive allowing the student to get a feel for each letter.
My son was excited to get started practicing his cursive and finished these beginning pages quickly!

 Then onto the lessons. The next lessons go through the alphabet. Each begin with a row of the letter, then one of the words from a verse beginning with that letter for practice.
 I would usually have him stop here the first day and work on the verse the next day. Sometimes for two days if the verse was longer!

Along with each lesson is the opportunity for drawing. This was his favorite part! 

We used this as a supplement to help encourage his cursive skills. I showed the notebook to a friend when she was over and she made a comment about how difficult the letters looked to form compared to other programs out there. I personally didn't see too much struggle from my six year old simply because I wasn't terrible strict. He still needs to work on slanting his letters and is still learning some of the letters for the first time. Really, as long as he has the basic idea, I'm not worried. Yes, I want him to be disciplined but I also want him to continue to enjoy cursive. As long as he becomes comfortable with joining the letters together, knows how to do the curves, etc, I think he is headed in the right direction! Cursive is not being taught in the public schools in my area anymore so I view it more as an art form than anything else. I have noticed that since I have taught him this basics of cursive he is aware of it and can read where I wonder if it would be a struggle if I never exposed him to it!

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Independence Weekend!

The thunder continues to roll in. As it has been periodically for the past week or so. Some of my kids love the excitement of a storm. My youngest does not. I guess it's typical. The noise, the unknown. It's interesting how all weekend everyone was wishing us a happy 4th, and I replied the same. 

Yet I wonder if we have even remembered what the 4th even stands for. The freedoms. The victory that was truly won that day. A people, oppressed by a government were able to form their own government in the name of freedom and liberty. My question remains today. If a similar movement were to happen today would fireworks be gleaming in the sky? I think not. We would be considered rebels, outcasts, freaks if you will. If a group were to stand up and demand their own form of government, free from the control of the oppressor would we be holding parades and running around in red, white and blue? If we requested the right to provide raw milk from our farm to our friends and neighbors for a reasonable profit or the right to choose whether or not we want to inject our children with unproven poisons into their bodies would the cheerleaders be cheering us on? We are all aware that our freedoms have diminished greatly over the years and for what reason? It burdens me that it is a battle to live the way that our forefathers lived in years past, but I'm willing to plow the tough fields to get the soil back where it needs to be in this country again! So rather than solely dwell on my stolen liberties, I will remind myself of the liberties I do have. Freedom to worship the One True God each and every day. The freedom to home educate my kids in a biblical and Christian fashion. The freedom to step outside and drive in this country without dealing with men in military uniform forcing me to honor a curfew. I am not ignorant of the world around me and the freedoms that other parts of the world do not possess. I've visited there and seen it with my own eyes.  My prayer is that we open our eyes in this country to what is going on and know
that in a blink of an eye, the liberties we have now may be gone. Thank God today for your liberties and your freedoms and pray that we turn to God as a nation because He knows that we need to!