Monday, February 28, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Woopsies... two people gave me a Stylish blogger Award and I kind of ignored it became busy with the humdrum of winter. I have had writers block and taking up my scrapbooking habit again. Blogging has taken a back seat except for reviews. So this affords a good opportunity to finally get at this one. The two bloggers that gave me this were:


The rules for the award are as follows

  • Thanks and link back the person(s) who award you
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

Ok so for my seven things...

1. I am a food snob. Maybe not a secret but these don't have to be secrets. I like gourmet popcorn from Crown Jewel (because Alton Brown talked about it.) I love The Spice House spices (because Alton Brown talked about it.) Both of these places do make outstanding products.

2. I like Alton Brown and Good Eats.

3. We have been gluten and casein and mostly soy free for five or six years now. I have lost count. You can peek at my food blog Settings of Silver for a bit more of that journey. I don't blog there often. One of my 2011 goals was to blog there more. There's still time.

4. I Love Jesus. And I know He loves me.

5. I'm an oldest child and act like it. Ever read The Birth Order book? Me, my brother and sister live that out daily. .. even as adults.

6. I accidentally got an engineering degree.

7. Been a Michigander all my life.

and two extras...

8. Addicted to facebook.

9. I stand and walk on my toes all the time... perhaps a wish to be taller??

OK...Drumroll...on to the awards. They are mostly homeschoolers- but not all. Some are newer than others but I liked the wide range of topics that they blogged on. Take a peek!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Encouraging Moments Newsletter Review

This picture above makes me smile. I love to laugh... and be encouraged. I was asked to review the Encouraging Moments Newsletter from Eternal Encouragement Magazine and this was the top picture in one of the newsletters. It is how I feel on many days. This is a branch of

Encouraging moments is a free newsletter you can sign up for by going to the upper right corner of The Gabby Moms page. Each one includes an 'encouraging word' at the beginning and then the following sections contain links to savings on their website, videos called Chick Flicks for Moms, Facebook snippets and links to tips on the website. The encouragement includes topics in the areas of homemaking, moms, marriage and parenting.

Here's the thing....I actually felt a little bit preached to. (I'm willing to admit that this could be about me and not the newsletter.) One section of the newsletter links to Chick Flicks for Mom. There was one video I did enjoy that talked about not responding to whining. But in another she spoke about how obedience isn't obedience unless they are joyful. Maybe it is because I have a special needs child and things don't look the same. Maybe because Andrew is 2 or 3 years old emotionally in a 10 year old body that when I hear these messages I feel more guilty than convicted. Because we are working toward improvement and some day my child WILL say, "yes mom. It would be my pleasure." But you can't MAKE a child be joyful. And if you get a joyful tone and it is not real then it doesn't really count in their heart which is what you are going for. Maybe I'm just in a different place or because it is NEVER simple for us. There were other videos too and most I didn't care for. This isn't the 'all' of the newsletter but many of the articles are toward this end as well. The typical never seems to work when your kid isn't. It seems that there are many that very much enjoy these videos- and sometimes I just dance to a different drummer- and it has been a very long winter where we are in survival mode. So don't take my word for it. Please go check them out yourself. I'm just being real with you for where I am currently 'at.' People have been known to disagree with me in the past. {smile}

There are some nice links in these newsletters to articles which you might find useful and it appears that typically there are coupons and savings codes for items in the store. There are some good looking recipes on the blog that I might try. The newsletter is free so you are out nothing by subscribing.

If you have a typical kid you really might find encouragement from these newsletters. Even if your kid isn't costs nothing. You can see what others thought by going to

I am reviewing Encouraging Moments as an official member of The Gabby Moms blogging program for Eternal Encouragement magazine. I did not receive compensation for this post and all opinions are solely my own.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Time 4 Learning Review

I had the opportunity to review Time 4 Learning. This is an online home school, after school, summer schooling program that includes Language Arts, Science, Social Studies and Math. You could use this as a supplement or a main curriculum for your student from preschool through middle school. I was able to sign up four students as part of the review program so I investigated four different grades of learning.

The program is very easy to navigate. You sign in and go to the subject of choice. Some of the lessons included audio and video. Some were more in a 'presentation' format. If a child reads, then they could do any of the activities independently. After you have completed a set number of minutes of work you can go to the games area. This amount of time can be set and changed by the parent. There is a lot of flexibility in how you set up the program including changing the grade level after you have purchased your pass.

There is a parent sign in section. This allows you to follow your child's progress and also change and individualize their lessons. There are a few of the videos that are closed captioned. Most are not but the fact that a some are shows me that they are working toward that end. Andrew was able to hear probably 70% of the audio of those lessons that were not captioned in some way. Many of the lessons also have visual information that follows (but does not caption) what is being said. If you have a hearing impaired child who is a good listener, it is do-able.

The program sells for $19.95 per month for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child.

Part of the reason I wanted to review this product was to see if Andrew could do some work independently on the computer. We had a bit of an issue that he is a 'clicker.' He just kept clicking away and would get two out of ten correct. He was distracted a bit by the presentation. Also of course, listening without captioning presented a need to increase his listening skills- not an easy task for him. Still we were able to use most of the lessons in some way but it did not afford ME the independence I desired in the program. I was picturing myself paying bills, doing dishes or going through the mail while he did this program. I had to be there to keep him on task much of the time. If you do not have a cyber wanderer, then you wouldn't have his issue.

Andrew is also very sporadic in his skills. On the plus side, I was able to identify some holes in his learning and attempt to fill them. On the minus side, there were a lot of holes. I am not sure what to make of this. If you don't follow a strict curriculum that follows the standard state (and we don't) then you will have holes. Of course this is ideal to fill those gaps if you have a child that works well with computer online lessons.

The nice part of Time 4 Learning is that you can see how the public school kids learn. Again.. the not so nice part is that many people who homeschool do so because public school has perhaps failed them in some way. I was lamenting to my mom (a retired school teacher) that Andrew's reading comprehension was very low as indicated on Time 4 Learning. My mom has seen my son's reading in action...and it is not an issue. Even thought she is 'Grandma' I don't think she was biased in her observation here. Not sure how to process this for myself at this time but we don't do standard 'reading' types of activities so for now I will just continue with what we have been doing and 're-test' at a later date.

One part of Time 4 Learning that is great is that it is self directed. You go at your own pace, you do what you want to do.. there is no 'order' to completion. You pick the topics you want, when you want them.

Andrew has some gaps when it comes to social studies and even science. However, when I look at what he does know, it just falls outside of what they 'typically' learn in elementary school. He has the periodic table memorized and will ask his dad about thermoplastics. He will dive head first into an interest or passion until he knows it as well as a high schooler. But that leaves 'gaps.' Surprisingly he was not upset when he would get a low percentage score on a test. In the past this has made him unglued. So that was a nice bonus to see. But he did not 'test' well in the lower grade subjects presented on Time 4 Learning. This doesn't bother me that much because we do have growth, but if I have to stand beside him to do the program, it somewhat defeats the purpose. So for him, it just didn't fly. Again, to reiterate, if you have a child who would work well with online lessons then this is deal to fill in those gaps.

I know MANY people that love Time 4 Learning. (You can google Time 4 Learning reviews and find quite a few online.) I have two friends that think this is the best thing since sliced bread. Their kids beg for it, they are independent on it and it works great. These are special needs kids as well. If you have a public school child this could be a great summer investment. Many people who homeschool have found this a wonderful program for their children. Some will use for a specific age / grade so that one child can be working on the computer while they do direct work with their other child(ren.)

If you have a blog you can request a month free in exchange for a review on your blog. I know people who do not have blogs who have requested this as well and have put their reviews on yahoo groups or other outlets. You can find that information here. I received a month of Time 4 Learning in exchange for my honest review. If you are at all interested, I suggest requesting a free trial.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Fence

Stay friends with me long enough and I am sure you will tick me off. You will offend me. If you are reading this, and if you know me personally, you probably have. No one is immune. I probably won't tell you about it..I'll just be angry for way to long about it.

I get offended easily. Most people do but add on a special needs child, and it doesn't take much to offend. It is less so now because I have learned a few lessons on how A Fence.. offence effects me more than the offender.

Awhile back a local church gave a series of message called "A Fence." When someone offends you it puts up a fence between the two of you. But it isn't like the one above. is something more sinister.

When someone offends you it is very very rare that they intended to. Even when they mean to, the steps to your own emotional and spiritual health are the same. You forgive, you ask God to bless them, and you move on. Sometimes you need to do a bit of education and that is fine. But when you let it fester, you are only hurting yourself. You are hurting your relationship with them and by your lack of forgiveness you are increasing the distance between you and God.

Those steps are very hard to do. And you rarely feel them at first. As I write this I have a list of 'wrongs' that people have done to me still in my head. We went to a walk through nativity last year and my son was being so good..for him. But he was noisy, and interrupting and during one part of a sit down presentation, where it was dark and he couldn't hear, an older woman turned around and shushed him with angry eyes. I was recalling that earlier this week. I had to say, dear God..I forgive her. Bless her. And I will probably have to do that again. I obviously still haven't let it go entirely.

I said above that I get offended easily but it is much less so now. As I have learned this process, I find I am able to give people the benefit of the doubt. I did it just this week and it was a BIG offense...something off the charts. But I let it go. I am so proud of me. And so thankful for God's grace in being ever so gentle with me while I learn how to let go.

I have been (often) on the giving end as well. I have talked about autism in terms of 'high or low' functioning. I know that bothers many folks. I honestly mean no offense. It is just my way of processing. I will often describe Andrew by his disabilities. And I am sure I do that regarding others as well. I know that offends but I don't even realize that I do it. I know I need to shift my thinking and words here but it will be a process. I am completely self absorbed when I am out with Andrew- focused on our needs. I probably look cold and off-putting. But I mean no offense. And it is here that I realize that when other's offend me... I am only hurting ME by staying offended because they, most of the time, have NO idea.

One of my best friends gave me some words a few months ago. She said, "Amy. I am sure I have offended you. I am sure I will offend you in the future. I don't know your life. I don't live your life." And she is right. She has..and she will. And I will forgive her, ask God to bless her, and move on.

And a big thank you to another friend who gave me the inspiration for this post. You know who you are...she calls 'em like she see 'em. And gave me this most excellent advice recently. I adore truth in love.

Kid Scoop- a TOS review

Kid Scoop is a fun resource that encourages reading and reading comprehension. We were given the opportunity to review The Reluctant Reader by Kid Scoop which includes a 12 month access to the Kid Scoop monthly newspaper just for kids and 365 Kid Scoop Worksheets. The Reluctant Reader, which includes both of these, sells for $97.

The newspaper is a 20 page color PDF or online document that has 'news' regarding specific topics and a variety of 'to do' activities. (This is not necessarily current event news. It is more 'historical' things presented in a newspaper format.) The worksheets in the Newspaper need to be printed in order to do them but there is some information you can read online. The topics covered in the Newspaper are specific to that month. February included Valentines, Presidents day among other items. There are puzzles, jokes and more 'traditional' type of work in the Newspaper.

If you have a great reader, don't let the name of this program deter you. It would be GREAT for a reluctant reader. It is snappy, eye catching yet filled with 'real' information. BUT, I have an avid reader. He is not a reluctant reader. As I sit here typing he is reading "How to be a Genius." My kiddo reads...reads...and then reads some more. When he was about three years old, we were walking into Meijer Thrifty Acres and he looks up at the sign overhead. He points and says..."Welcome." Indeed that is what it said. But he has very much enjoyed both the newspaper and the worksheets. And we are not generally 'worksheet people.' It has offered me a much needed break to do the dishes, get caught up on email or blog when I hand him something interesting to complete. We have even learned a few new things because of the snappy way it was presented. In one of the Newspapers there was a two page spread on money, interest and the stock market. He now knows about the bulls and the bears... and we did a bit of math work with the information provided. (Shhh! Don't tell him we did math.) You can get almost every school subject covered to some degree with these Newspapers.

Although I very much think this is a good product I noticed you can get many downloads individually on this website as well as a weekly Newspaper. I didn't find anything more about the weekly Newspaper so I can't really tell you more there but there were plenty on the 'downloads' so you could give this a trial run to see if you like it. You can get a sample for free here. Each download has a variety of activities from word searches to experiments. It appears to me that these are the same as those that would be included in The Reluctant Reader although I am not sure. I know it does not include ALL the worksheet packets. We received 60 topics of downloaded packets. The website says that The Reluctant Reader includes 365 worksheets. Each packet is about 6 pages this does work out to be 60 packets. (You can do the math!)

In these packets there are 'fun' things such as spot the difference or puzzles and other items that are more 'school-ish.' Each packet is $2.99 each and there are plenty of topics to choose from. We didn't get the Jack Prelusky or Vitamin C in our Reluctant Reader packet and these are two I might pick up. (We did get the immunization download..and if you are of the same mind as me...just let that one go. Hey. We are not all perfect.) If you are interested in purchasing a packet first, you could contact them to see if the one you are interested in is in The Reluctant Reader. That way you could choose something that is NOT included in that to insure that you don't purchase it twice.

I did notice that you can get the monthly magazine for $15 a year as of the writing of this blog - regular $24 as noted on this page. I am not sure how that differs from the $55 value indicated on the Reluctant Reader page. I did enjoy our monthly magazine.

Although the worksheet packets can be purchased separately it is quite a big savings if you think you will use the topics given because separately those would work out to be $179 and that is without the monthly magazine. You will be printing much of these so work that into your cost scheme.

Below are pictures of Andrew working on an activity from these Kid Scoop topic specific downloads. We did enjoy it and I definitely recommend checking out the samples and purchasing a unit or two. If you decide you like them then the Reluctant Reader is well worth the dollars. OR.... they have a money back guarantee. That is on the main Reluctant Reader page about half way down. So there is really no risk.

You can read what other reviewers said about this product by clicking on the banner below.

I received this product in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Curiosity Files...a TOS Review

I had the opportunity to review The Curiosity Files- Blue Diamond from The Old Schoolhouse. There are a variety of title available in this series.


At first glance, this reminds me of Magic School Bus with it's fun and funky Professor Ana Lyze- Expert in Outlandish Oddities . There are many pages of information and Q&A followed by some fun activities. I love the way they tied in the topic with the Word. This truly is a unit study that includes some history, science, geography, Bible, spelling, vocab and even the dreaded....m.a.t.h. It is written on a multi level so it is good for families with children in various grades.

For us, we tend to not do worksheets. At the beginning, I tried reading the information and then having Andrew do the worksheets. That just didn't work for us so we went back to our traditional oral narrating. But once beyond that there was plenty to do and talk about. There were mysteries and puzzles to solve, word searches, crosswords and games. The unit study had plenty of links to take you on a whole semester of rabbit trails if you wished. We did not do all of the study- it is quite long. And if Andrew was more in a 'rock mood' we might have used more. This is one of those things that we did a bit and will pull out at a later date.

We did one rabbit trail to Cranbrook Museum. They actually had (I think) a very small blue diamond behind glass. I don't recall for sure because 'behind glass' doesn't garner much attention. Andrew is more hands on and below we were able to 'experience' how rocks form. You have to stack the blocks according to a 'clicking' sound and light. The clicking gets faster and faster and you see how rocks form smooth and nice versus jagged. The other picture is of Andrew with a giant sensory toy rock that the kids can touch.

There are quite a few titles in The Curiosity Files series..and some of them are only $1. At the time of this writing the Blue Diamond is selling for $6.95.


Other Crew members reviewed other 'Files' so be sure to check them out at the tab below.

I received The Curiosity Files for free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowflake- a poem

We just read about how snowflakes are formed and are doing a lapbook on the subject. I asked Andrew to write anything new that he learned about snowflakes in the little booklet for the activity. He decided, on his own, to write a poem:

Specks of dirt is where they start,
Then crystals fall, away, apart.
Then they clash together it's true.
A snowflake, for me and you.
- by AJ Lapain

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Heart Your Kid

I am pretty sure that I have written a blog with this title before. But I am feeling it again. As I review in my mind all of the wisdom that has been imparted to us over the years by various professionals, I am touched mostly by those that LOVED my kid. Sometimes I differed greatly with them regarding their appraisal of how best to work with Andrew, but I knew they loved him. Their passion was reflected in their work. Even if their methodologies were not something I was going to carry out, they still had an impact just by their interaction with my child.

My son is great. But at times he is quite a handful. Those that love him look him square in the eyes, even when he doesn't look back, and the see who he is beneath the surface..even when he is mid tantrum. They see who God made him to be (even if they themselves don't know God! I feel at times that Andrew is bringing that to them ..even if they don't know THAT either!)

Why am I pondering this now? Just because...just because I have had yet another encounter with someone who I can tell does not have their heart in it. They do not love him or even like him for that matter. I wonder why this person, and others like them, work with kids on the spectrum. Because they are, if nothing else, a puzzle. If you have met one autistic have met one autistic child. There are no formulas. Only love.

So thank you. You know who you are.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In case you are feeling a little bad....

We are always behind. I get that. But what about when you are behind the behind. It is especially stupid unwise to compare yourself to others within the special needs community. But alas, I find myself doing that.

I love it when someone with a special needs child who is trying to make you feel better says, "oh my Bobby wasn't potty trained until he was four." Yea...try six. And yet I know in saying this that there are those with even older autistic and special needs kids who are still in diapers and six would have been a blessing.


"Little Billy was a bit behind on his handwriting also! He didn't learn to write correctly with capitals and lower case until third grade." (We are in forth. Not there yet.)

The examples that have come up this week are not the potty and not the handwriting. But I do compare, feel bad, wonder if we should try YET again to work on handwriting, shoe tying, hand washing, sleeping alone.......

But there were things that I thought he would never do. In preschool the teacher tried to teach him how to put on his coat by putting it in front of him, putting in his arms and tossing it over his head. My husband said, "I can just see him at work in his cubicle doing that!" ROFL. But he finally got it..mostly.. and does it the 'normal' way now. We still help with "the bunchies."

We, as parents, have to toggle between doing too much for our children and they don't learn..or not doing enough and having frustration. We have to recognize that our children are on their own path.

In time we become comfortable with that....

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