Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Fun Halloween comment

I enjoy Halloween for a number of reasons.
I love the cooler weather.
I love the excitement my children have in when deciding what to dress up as, and of course the actual dressing up.
I love to see all the creative costumes.  
I love to see all the houses decorated in a fun, spooky manner.
I love seeing so many families out together having a good time.
I love my children's enthusiasm over carving the pumpkins.
I love to cook and eat the pumpkins seed. YUM!
I love the sheer enjoyment of being a kid again.

Now, my children haven't done the traditional "trick or treating" in a couple of years. Our church puts on a Fall Festival every year that is open to the community and the kids have an absolute blast! There’s costume contest, bounce houses, foods, candy, trunk or treat, carnival games, and more. My oldest and the rest of the youth group work the festival, which they really enjoy. Then, towards the end of the night when things slow down some, they get to go out and 'play' till closing time.   

This year my oldest is dressing up as a black widow, which we've had to alter a bit to make the costume appreciate for a young girl. And my youngest is dressing up as Cheshire, the cat from Alice in Wonderland.

 I hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

I’m IT!!

No, not the “scary”, crazy clown from Steven King’s horror movie, I’m 'IT' in the game of BLOG TAG!

I used to love the game of tag as a kid. What better way to chase the cute boys around, and have them chase you around then a good ol’ game of tag?! Albeit, this game of tag is a little different, but it can be just as FUN!

I was tagged by my friend The Queen over at The Cow Queen. I’m sticking with the 8, 8, 8 rule. Which is, answer the 8 questions asked, tag 8 others people, and then ask 8 different questions.

1. Do you plan to homeschool "forever" or just for a season?
My intention is to homeschool “forever” and I’m praying that is God’s plan, too. It was His plan that started us on this homeschool journey to begin with.

2. What is your biggest homeschooling challenge, and how do you handle it?
My biggest challenge is staying organized. As for how I handle it, hahaha, I’ll let you know when I figure it out. I have a few things that I use to help me attempt to stay organized, but I usually fall through the cracks. It’s me, not the products :- )

3. If you have multiple children, how do you find one-on-one time for instruction? (I mainly mean for younger children and reading.)
I can’t answer how to find time to read one-on-one with younger children, as mine are in 5th and 7th grade. However, in order to have one-on-one teaching time with both my children, I become pretty good at juggling. Shoot, maybe I should join the circus! On a typical day, I assign my oldest her assignments for the day and once she gets started on her first subject, then I sit down with my youngest. After working with her for a while and she’s on a roll, I go back to work with my oldest, and so the cycle continues until all the assignments are completed. Of course, there are also subjects the three of us work on together.

4. How do you find time for your own pleasure reading?
I do most of my reading at night before I go to bed. If only I would remember to go to bed a bit earlier, I might get a little more ready done before hubby comes to bed.

5. How do you find any time for yourself?
I don’t usually have a much time to myself, but I try to take the smallest moments and make the most of them. Such as, the rare time alone in the car, when my children are outside playing, while I’m in the shower, etc. Strangely enough I don’t miss it. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to be able to stay home with my children since birth, so I’ve become accustom to “alone time” being a thing of the past. This wasn’t always my feelings. I can remember crying on many occasions, because I desperately needed time for myself. But, when my children started public school, and they were actually away from me, then it was a whole new ball game. I needed them close to me, and I felt empty when they were away. Now, they're rarely ever away from me.    

6. What is your favorite kid-friendly recipe? (you can just put the title, if you want -- I know where to find you ;) )
I don’t really have any kid friendly recipes… Hmmmmm… Well, my kids really enjoy my homemade baked chicken tender/nuggets (whichever you want to call them).
This is how I make them. First, I take boneless, skinless chicken breast and rinse them well in cold water, then cut them into whatever size pieces I want. In one bowl I mix 2 eggs and a bit of milk (like I’m making scrambled eggs) and in another bowl I have Italian style bread crumbs. I take a couple pieces of chicken at a time and dip them in the egg mix, and then put them in the bread crumbs until completely coated. Afterwards, I shake off the excess, put them on a foil lined baking pan, and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. I do 99.9% of my baking in a convection/rotisserie oven, so you may have to tweak the temp and time based on your oven.

7. Why do you blog?
I actually started blogging as a requirement for the TOS Crew. I have high hopes to find time to blog a lot more often, and about things other than completed reviews. After all, my blog name is The Joys of Homeschooling. Baby steps… taken baby steps…

8. Boxers or briefs? Just kidding ... sweet or salty ... your favorite snack.
Boxer! No, wait, briefs! Wait, both! Hahaha!
So, salty or sweet? I will have to choose… BOTH for this too :- ) I really do enjoy both, although my belly says differently. I have a sensitive belly and it doesn’t like sweets most of the time. If I had to choose a favorite, it would have to be something like chocolate covered pretzels. YUM!! Or maybe trail mix. I also really enjoy salted cucumbers!

It's your turn ladies, you're now “IT”!

 My questions for these lovely ladies are…

1. How do you stay organized?
2. What is your favorite curriculum and why? (Ex: Apologia, Life of Fred, etc.)
3. Do you notebook or lapbook? Do you have any successful secrets to share to a lapbook newbie?
4. What kind of fieldtrips, or outings do you go on for school enrichment?
5. Do you have any awesome science experiments to share?
6. What is the best website, book, etc; you have found that has helped you through your homeschool journey?
7. Within your homeschool, what is one thing you could never live without?
8. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever heard from a non-homeschooler? It can be something from a child or an adult.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TOS Review: PG KEY

Title: PG KEY
Price: $49.99 + shipping
Compatible with: Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7

What is it?
The PG Key is a flash drive that plugs into your computer’s USB Port. While the KEY is connected to the computer it does a multitude of functions to help keep your children safe while on the internet. Once the KEY is installed and a user is created, the PG Key offers the parent or guardian some peace of mind.

Description from the site: “PG KEY is a patent pending, award winning device that simply plugs into your children’s computer’s USB port and immediately creates a safer and more "kid friendly" online environment. PG Key was designed and endorsed by a team that includes internet security experts, law enforcement, educators, and children’s and family psychologists to give parents the tools they need to keep kids safe online with one simple device.”

Access Control: Control computer use by inserting or unplugging PG Key

Time Allowance: Decide the amount of time the computer can be used daily.

Content Filtering: Eliminate unwanted results from innocent searches.

Site Blocking: Block sites you decide are inappropriate.

Activity Tracking: Review all activity on the PC with a DVD-like interface.

Activity Notifications: Be informed via text message or e-mail of any flagged activity.

Chat and E-mail Logging: See both sides of chat and e-mail conversations.

Computer Configuration: Properly configure all users of the protected PC.

User Name and Password Logging: Keep track of user names and passwords.

Inappropriate Activity Evidence: Use video recording to show obvious or suspected inappropriate activity

What I LIKED about it:
The internet offers a wonderful wealth of information, but can also be a very scary and dangerous 'black hole.'  With online predators, adult material, online bullying, etc, parents need to be aware and involved when their children are online.  I really like the peace of mind PG KEY offers.  I was able to see actual video snap shots of everything my daughter did while using her computer - music videos, games, yahoo chat messenger, internet searches, web activity, etc.  I changed the snapshot recording to 1 second intervals, rather than the default 5 second intervals.   
When the computer is in use, whether online or offline, the KEY has the capabilities to continually record up to 60 hours.  When the KEY is about full, it will begin to record over what was previously recorded.
It offers a safe search engine, so I don't have to worry about what my daughter may stumble upon when searching for something.
If the KEY is removed from the computer, the screen freezes and the admin password must be enter before moving on. 
Another great feature is it's ability to block programs from being installed or uninstalled without the admin password.  This helps to keep the computer safe from viruses and/or spyware.         

If at any point you have any issues with the KEY, tech support is available via email or telephone.  When I contacted tech support via email for a problem I was having (see - What I did NOT like) Mark was quick to return my email offering me support.  We emailed back and forth a few times, and on his day off I received an email from Justin, who was stepping in to assist.  To my surprise, Justin actually offered to call me, since we couldn't work out the problems I was having via email.  After two hours on the phone with Justin, the problems were fixed, and I was ready to dive in and see what the PG KEY was all about.          

What I did NOT like about it:
There were a few things I didn't like the PG KEY.
A) When I first opened the PG KEY box I thought it was going to be 'easy as pie' to install and begin using the program.  Boy was I wrong. The box contained the flash drive, a double sided piece of paper with advertisements, a single sided piece of paper with testimonies, and a small (8" by 7") double sided paper with instructions.  According to the instructions you 1) plug the key into USB port, follow the install prompts, and 2) protect - which means to create a user account and password, and you're done. You are then supposed to be able to move on and view tutorials, change options, etc.  However, this was not the case for me.  I installed the program as instructed, but nothing would happen. My Program File showed the PG Key was installed, however, I couldn’t register the KEY, create a user; I couldn’t do anything at all with it.  A small icon should have been appeared in the icon tray on the bottom right hand side of the desktop, but it wasn’t there.  This icon is important in using the program.  I uninstalled and reinstalled the KEY several times to no avail. I attempted to “reboot” the KEY as directed by Mark (tech support).  A day later, during a two hour long conversation with Justin (tech support) trying to debug and trouble shoot the problems we were having, he ended up correcting the problem via a remote access website.  As I said previously, I’m not a ‘techie’ kind of girl, so I honestly have no idea what the actual problem was, but once Justin was finished, the PG KEY program ran smoothly.    
B) I didn't like that the KEY could ONLY be registered to one computer.  If your children all use the same computer, then you simply create a user for each child. However, if you're like us and each of your children have their own personal computer, then you'll need to purchase a PG KEY for each computer.
C) I wasn't pleased with the 'black screen of death' as I call it, when the computer is shut down or rebooted with the KEY in the USB port.  It not really a big deal, but the black screen says, "No operating system found," as well as a lot of other things a non-techie like me doesn't understand. However, simply remove the KEY from the port, and reboot your computer as normal.    

Who could use it and would I buy it?
Although PG KEY has some kinks it needs to work out, I feel over all it would be great for any adult who has a child; younger or older, they wish to help keep safe while on the internet. 
If I didn't already own the PG KEY, I would purchase one for my home.  However, I personally would only purchase one KEY and have my children share a computer.

If you would like to request a free trial or purchase PG KEY for your home, click HERE. 
Be sure to check out what my fellow TOS Crew Members have to say about PG KEY.

Disclaimer: I’m an independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I received the PG KEY in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 1, 2010

TOS Review: Foundlings

Title: The Peleg Chronicles book one - Foundlings
Publisher: Zoe and Sozo Publishing
Number of Pages: 256
Price: $11.95
Format: Paperback

          Foundlings is the first book of The Peleg Chronicles series. It’s written by Mathew Christian Harding, who is a homeschool father of four. The story evolved as a unique way of sharing biblical history and God’s amazing love with his children during that special time with Mom and Dad that all children love so much - story time.

Foundlings is a historical fiction that unfolds during the Peleg period, shortly after the scattering of the tower of Babel. Within the story you’ll become acquainted with many different characters, such as dragons, dwarfs (small humans who were forced into slavery), giants, and false priest; some are good and honorable, while others are mean and deceitful.

Mr. Harding has found a thrilling way of teaching others the importance of having a strong Christian walk with God, no matter what you may be going through. While teaching the significance of biblical principles such as, bravery, faith, honesty, worship, responsibility, and loyalty.

What we thought of the book: When I first began reading the book, I found it a bit challenging to keep up with the characters and the storyline. But, when I went back through the previously read pages, things became a bit clearer. This style of book is new to me, as it’s not the type of book I typically read. However, I do feel it would be a fascinating book for anyone, young or seasoned, who enjoys adventure style stories. My oldest daughter (12 yrs old) read the book, she really enjoyed it.  I’m delighted Foundlings is a Christian book and is appropriate reading for all ages. Mr. Harding does, however, recommend readers be at least 7 years old.

To purchase your own copy of Foundlings: The Peleg Chronicles click HERE. The second book in the series, Paladins, is also available. Book three will be released May 2011.  Both books are also available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.       

Disclaimer: I’m an independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I received the Foundlings – The Peleg Chronicles series book in exchange for my honest review.
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