Saturday, January 15, 2011


The last few days have been unseasonably cold for us here on the coast. We'd wake up to 18 degrees and icicles hanging from the outside faucets. Surprisingly today was a very pleasant change. The air was much warmer and the sun was shining so beautifully. I couldn't resist getting outside to soak up the sun and also enjoy another pleasure of mine...reading.

I found this enchanting book on my last visit to the library. It's the perfect combination of simple sewing and vintage style. The author takes you on a stroll through the ages with quaint projects inspired by sewing history. I loved looking at all the vintage photos as much as I did reading the articles and following the sewing timeline that borders the bottom of most pages.

I like being able to try out a book first before I take the plunge and buy it. This is one 'must have' for my sewing library! What a marvelous way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

A first

Having 3 girls in our house, we've always had tons of dolls around. The girls have enjoyed dressing and undressing them time after time. You would think with all the sewing I do that I would have whipped up wardrobe after wardrobe for these little darlings. Uh...guess what? That's not the case at all. In fact, I've never even had a desire to sew doll clothes.

Recently we were at a local fabric store scanning through the pattern books. Emma kept pointing out doll patterns and begging to buy one. I tried to ignore her, but she's pretty persistent. Finally I looked and yes it was really cute. What sold me was the price-$.99. Okay I thought, I'll buy the pattern. Well, it didn't end there. Little Emma kept on reminding me that I had to make that dress. I gave in and let her pick out some fabric and I sat down to sew.
To my surprise, I really enjoyed making these miniature clothes. It was fast and oh so easy. When I unveiled the completed creation, Emma's eyes lite up as she said, "It's beautiful Mom!"
So...when she requested that I make a pretty little night gown too, I jumped right on it.
Making doll clothes might have just become another hobby of mine.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Virtual Nerd Review

Virtual Nerd is a truly unique online resource to help students in math and science. It's like a private tutor right in your computer! I recently reviewed this program for Virtual Nerd and TOS. My girls have never been too fond of math so I have to say it was refreshing to find a program to actually help and answer all their questions.

What's this program about?
1. They anticipate the students' questions and offer in-context links to helpful tutorials.
2. Provide ability to progressively drill down to related tutorials as additional help is needed.
3. Enable the student to stay focused and oriented and work at their own pace.
4. Provide convenient anytime, anywhere access via the web.
5. Provides a platform for parents to see the students learning process.

What's available:
Algebra I
Algebra II
Conceptual Physics

Coming soon:
Physics w/Trig

How much?
Individual Subscription: $49/mo
Custom school packages are also available

My personal opinion:
This is one incredible site! I know from experience that tutors can be expensive and they're not always able to fully explain the problems so your child can understand. With Virtual Nerd they cover every possible angle to take all the frustration out of learning. I only wish I had a program like this when I was in high school.

You can find other reviews on Virtual Nerd at the Homeschool Crew Blog.

I received a free subscription to Virtual Nerd for the purpose of writing this review. No other compensation was received. The content of this post is my own personal opinion only.

Monday, January 10, 2011

River Route

My family and I are blessed to live in a quaint little town on a river in the deep south. Much of the property in the area is covered with a majestic canopy of giant oak trees and camellia bushes. In the spring you'll see azaleas, wisteria, dog wood and magnolia blossoms. At the turn of the century, the water from the many natural springs along both sides of the river was declared "the purest in the world" by several chemical companies in Chicago.

That's not the only thing our river is known for. It happens to remain the only river route mail delivery in the continental United States.

Boathouses grace each shore with a variety of styles of mailboxes attached to their docks. It's a pretty neat thing to go to the mailbox and watch the herons and pelicans while you wait for the mail to be delivered. Life is good!

Precious puppies

We've had a special delivery at our house. Our English Pointer had her puppies! We now have 6 little furry bundles of joy.
One little girl, Birtle was a little small and weak. We had to move her inside and start feeding her with a bottle. Thankfully she's eating well and growing. She goes for visits each day to see her momma and siblings. We're hoping she'll be strong enough soon to go back to stay with them all the time.

Little Birtle sleeping in Emma's doll bed in front of the fireplace. Doesn't she look content?

Home Away from Home

We've been traveling to Canada every year for about 10 years. I never tire of the views, of the wonderful people...of Canada. Every year I leave a piece of my heart on the prairie. There's something about Canada that leaves me longing for more.

Is she really 7????

How can it be that 7 years have already passed since I first held that tiny baby in my arms? I honestly don't know where the time goes. It seems like just yesterday I was changing her she can read and is becoming more independent everyday. One thing hasn't changed-her sweet heart. She's one of the sweetest children I've ever known. She has such a kind and loving disposition. Most importantly is that she loves the Lord with a depth that most adults have never experienced. Now she's 7!

For her birthday she wanted red velvet cupcakes. We found this pan that made the cutest tiered cakes. She and Grace helped to decorate them.
For her special cake she once again chose cheese cake. Her favorite. We had pink punch, little sandwiches and of course ice cream.

One of the activities she and her friends did was to paint wooden picture frames. We took a group shot and sent one home with each girl.

She had all of her favorite friends over. They changed dress-ups so many times that I lost count. What dear friends she has. What a sweet age. She, like Mary said, "this was the best birthday party ever!" Until next year, I'm sure. :) Happy birthday to my little blessing.

My new little hobby

I've been sewing now for about 10 years. I started out making clothes for the girls and smocking. Later I sewed a few crafts, etc. One of my dreams has been to learn to quilt. I took a class several years ago but never completed a project. When we moved I happen to see all my quilting supplies and set a goal to learn to quilt. You've got to walk before you can run, so I started with small projects. I checked a book out from the library and got started. I kept this book so long and loved it so much that I ended up purchasing my own copy.

I've now made several small quilts (all for gifts) and 2 baby sized quilts (I kept one of these for myself). I even made a couple of pillows for a quick Christmas gift. By doing these small quilts, I'm learning the technique without stressing myself out. Plus I get (almost) instant gratification. One day I'd like to complete a quilt to go on our bed. For now I get a lot of satisfaction from sewing these small squares and watching them form a beautiful pattern. It makes me feel good to think I'm continuing a tradition that my grandmother and her mother started. The sweetest thing is that one of my daughters has the quilting bug now. For Christmas I got her a quilting kit. I can just see my Granny smiling down on us. I look forward to cutting, piecing and sewing for many more years with all my girls.

(this is a baby size log cabin quilt that I made just for me.)

A big birthday

Mary is my free-spirit, artsy, swing dancin', beautiful little socialite. She never meets a stranger and loves everyone. This girl loves a big party. She always has. Her motto, "the more the merrier!"

For her 14th birthday I knew she'd want to have ALL her friends over. Her dream party: a bonfire complete with s'mores and hotdogs and lots of capture the flag. I love to make her wishes come true. So...she invited a few friends (lol!)-

Her daddy made a little bonfire (another lol!).

I made some s'more cupcakes. Yummy!

We set up the back porch with tables that held a crock pot of chili, chips, soda and hot chocolate. The kids played capture the flag for hours. I have to say this was a great birthday party. Mary said it was the best birthday ever! Your 14th birthday should be special... when you are as special as she is. I can't stop her from growing up so I might as well celebrate all the mile stones. I know for sure this is a birthday she'll never forget.


Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. ~1Peter 4:9-10

Entertaining large groups (anything over 2 people :) ) has always been difficult for me and really outside of my comfort zone. I worry about what to cook and if it will be edible, if the house is clean enough, etc. Once we moved into the new house I vowed to myself that this was something I'd work on because I truly feel it's what God wants in my life. I've been trying to have some sort of get-together each month. One month it was for my parent's birthdays, another was an ornament exchange party, another was some friend's birthday, one month was 'just because'. In doing this I've learned a few things. First, people don't really care what I cook. Secondly, no one has complained so far that my house was too dirty to visit. LOL! The most important thing I've learned is how much fun it is to have eveyone here, fellowshiping in our home. Don't get me wrong, I still stress out...just now I know it'll all be worth it in the end.


I never set out to be a "mega blogger'" or to have a huge following. I started my blog several years ago to capture my thoughts and to keep up with memories...and just for fun. It was a nice way to let friends and family who aren't near be a part of our lives. Just the other day one of my daughters commented, "Mom, every time I go to your blog all I see are reviews. Can you please post something else?" Wow, I really didn't think she even cared about my blog.

The Homeschool Crew is just a temporary 'fancy' of mine. I'm enjoying getting to look at all the new products and curriculum and just see what's out there. Unfortunately it has taken over my blog. Sorry about that. Like I said, it's just temporary.

From now on I'm going to try harder to find the time to post about our normal everyday things. Please hang in there with me while I play catch-up.

Monday, January 3, 2011

ALEKS Math Review

What is ALEKS?

Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and your child may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

~Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library

~No Textbook Required

~Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge

~Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12

~Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress

~Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible

QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction
Learn More

ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools and educational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning that your student may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

Student Account

Assessment: Students begin in ALEKS by taking an individualized, adaptive assessment to determine what they already know and what they are ready to learn next.

MyPie: The ALEKS Pie summarizes a student's current knowledge and offers topics that the student is ready to learn next. The darkened portion of each pie slice represents the topics that the student has mastered and the lighter portion represents what the student has yet to learn.

Input Tools: ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple-choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery.

Learning Mode: The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the topic is added to the ALEKS Pie, and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.

Explanations: When a student is working on a particular problem, she can access an explanation of that problem by clicking on the "Explain" button. The explanation typically provides a step-by-step solution, with commentary. In some cases, an alternative or more detailed explanation is also available.

Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes.

Worksheets: Students have the ability to print out 16-question worksheets for additional practice or review. These worksheets are uniquely generated based on the student's current knowledge.

ALEKS QuickTables: QuickTables is a research-based, math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.

Interactive Games: Provide additional review and built-in rewards.

Master Account
Master Account Homepage: Easily manage all student accounts, monitor student progress, view customized resources, and more.

Attendance Report: Track student time spent in ALEKS per day, the topics attempted, and the topics mastered and added to the ALEKS Pie.

Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately. View a detailed quiz results sample report (PDF).

ALEKS offers the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your child in mathematics. ALEKS is available anytime you are and offers individualized assessment and learning. Purchasing an ALEKS subscription allows your child to access the full course library, however only one course may be taken at a time. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning that your child may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

A subscription to ALEKS is :

  • $19.95 per student, per month, or

  • only $99.95 every 6 months, or

  • only $179.95 every 12 months.

My personal opinion of this math course…first of all let me say that around our house math is not a favorite subject. In fact, we've been known to have tears while trying to get through a lesson. After my daughter tried this course she said, "I LOVE this math." That said it all for me. We've shelved our 'fancy', expensive math curriculum in favor of ALEKS-a good, solid program that just happens to be fun too.

Read more reviews about ALEKS at the TOS crew blog.

*TOS and ALEKS asked me to review this curriculum. I received a free subscription for my review. No other compensation was received.