A Witch & A Pirate Walk Into A Bar

No, not really.

But there will be a witch and a pirate in this post.  The only drinking will be by the parents monitoring the excessive requests for "just one more piece of candy!!!"

This is our first Halloween living in a neighborhood and we are all pumped.  It's the perfect chance to meet our neighbors and to recreate some of the awesome Halloween memories of my childhood.  My Aunt and Uncle threw a huge Halloween party every year that I always looked forward to.  We don't have any friends yet, so no party, but there will be chili so it's a start.

One of my biggest epiphanies was that taking costume pictures on Halloween was not smart.

That doesn't speak much to the quality of my epiphanies.

Either way, a few years ago I started dressing them up in full costume a few days before Halloween to get all the cute pictures that I want without causing a delay to trick or treating.

Also of note, I've fallen pretty far from the homemade costumes of my first Halloweens.

Or maybe I've gone up since then.

Either way, I didn't make a stitch of their costumes.  In fact, Gabe's is just a shirt from Target and some cheap pants from Walmart.  I did cut off the bottom of the pants, so maybe I've still got a little bit of craftiness left in me.

On with the show:

I think Gabe's done.

Have a happy Halloween everyone!  See you back here for First Day!


Whole Lot Of Nothing

Man, it's been quiet around here.

We've been busy, just not with a lot of blog worthy stuff.  Dentist appointments and park days don't make the best reading material.  But my kids have Grandparents that demand a certain quota of kid updates, so here's a random collection of our recent adventures in Scottsdale.

We went to the pumpkin patch.

It's been tricky getting in the Halloween Spirit when we are still hitting the high 90's around here.  But the other day I decided that, with only a week left, it was now or never.  We headed to the Desert Botanical Gardens and had a very festive morning picking out gigantic pumpkins and going on a hayride.  I won't lie, it was hot.  But we survived without one single complaint, which signifies we are one step closer to being real Arizonians.

I've been promised by multiple sources that Halloween signifies the day the temps drop to the 80's and don't climb back up.  We will see.

School is still rolling along.

2nd Grade isn't as fun to blog about, which is a shame because this is the first year that homeschooling looks how I always pictured it looking like.  She's reading and writing and spelling and just acting like a sponge with how she is learning things.  She'll ask a question then come up with her own solutions for finding the answers.  It's kind of awesome.  Even more awesome that it just sort of happened.  I find little people brains to be fascinating.  When they are ready they just explode!  So cool.

Mother Goose Time is doing all of my preschool work for me.

I finally decided it was time to give the monthly letter and sight word flash cards another try, trying to not think about how when Josie was his age she already knew all the letters and their sounds.  I settled in to drill him and the kid got every all 12 right on the first shot.

How'd he learn them?  Beats me, but he did so my job here is done.

My Mom gets here next week so we will be starting our modified schedule.  I'm still working out the details, but it will have lots of field trips and some very basic daily school.  Leaving lots and lots of time for family!  I'm super excited.

I'm still married.

Andrew pointed out that it's been awhile since he made an appearance on the blog, so I assured him I'd put his pretty face up.  His new job is still going great.  They are about to enter their busy season and he had a couple of managers quit which makes his job harder, but he's always up for a challenge.  Well, almost always.

We sneak in a date every week.  Something we both desperately need after how intense our weeks can get.  Last Friday we went to the soft launch of a new restaurant.  We got on the VIP list through a new website I'm getting to write a little for (East Valley Moms Blog).  We had the best time.  I like this guy.

Last but not least, here's a plug for something awesome my brother is doing.

Most of you know he had a seizure a few years ago that lead to us finding out he has brain cancer.  This Halloween marks 3 years since that first seizure.  He made a reprint of the shirt he was wearing that day and is selling them to raise money for brain tumor research.  Here's a blurb from his wife:

One Halloween, Aaron had a seizure. Turns out, the reason for the seizin’ was a brain tumor. Turns out, that tumor was cancer. Turns out, he’s still kickin it in the face. Was the fact that he was wearing this t-shirt during his seizure a coincidence? Absolutely not.
Because this isn’t just a t-shirt. It’s a message to the world no matter what life hands you, giving up is for wusses and mama’s boys. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a brain tumor, a lost puppy or farting in a meeting, you’re still kickin. Because you’re a tough sonofabitch. Who likes to donate to excellent causes.
For every t-shirt sold, we’ll be donating the profits to the Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research, funding research grants that make it possible for more people to say they’re still kicking.

The first round raised over $7,000 and broke the record of shirts sold on Cotton Bureau (insert proud sister face).  If there's enough interest, they will do another round, so if you need one (you do), enter your email HERE.  No commitment to buy, just trying to raise enough interest for them to bring it back.

Here's Aaron's Still Kickin site, where you can be inspired by all the people that are Still Kickin.

And that, my friends, brings us all up to speed.  

On deck from here, a couple reviews and the obligatory Halloween Costume Post.  See ya soon!


TOS Review - Middlebury Interactive Languages

What Is It:

Middlebury Interactive Languages is a company that offers online language classes in Spanish, Chinese, French, and German.  Middlebury started as a college language course that used immersion to teach language comprehension and to accelerate the speed that students became fluent.  Now Middlebury has altered this hugely successful method to make it work for students!

For this review, we were given a full semester (6 months worth) access to the Elementary Spanish 1 course.  This course is for students with little to no Spanish exposure, geared mostly towards kids in Kindergarten through 2nd Grade.  The course is fully online and uses pictures, video, text, and real life experiences to help the student fully grasp the language.  The focus of this level was listening, speaking, writing, and reading basic Spanish.

An added bonus is that not only do students learn beginning Spanish, they also learn a lot about the cultures and myths and legends common in these cultures.  

You can either take the course with a teacher or without.  We tried out the option without one.  If you choose this option, there is a teacher section where you can view their progress.  If you do get the option with the teacher, you are able to get credits for the course.

How We Used It:

When I signed up for this review, I intended it to be for Josie.  However, after snooping around the website I decided that I wanted in too.  I took two years of Spanish in high school and only remember how to introduce myself and a few, very basic phrases.  I've wanted to learn more for quite some time and have zero shame sitting in on a second graders class to do it!

The program was simple to use.  On the days we had Spanish on the agenda, Josie would sit at the desk with her headphones and listen to the lesson.  The lessons were short and there wasn't much action required for her.  There is a feature where the student can speak into the microphone to test their pronunciation, but we didn't use this feature.

There are 35 units in the semester.  If you have the teacher option, the teacher sets the schedule.  If you are not using that feature, you can set the order.  Each unit has 6 lessons that cover colors, numbers, family, greetings, school and review.  There are videos in each that repeat to help the student learn the words.  These videos are only in Spanish.  I know that this is part of the immersion style of teaching, but Josie was frustrated by this.  She was able to pick up a couple words she was able to pick up, but for the most part, she couldn't figure out the stories.  There are scripts for the stories, but by the time I figured that out she was already frustrated. 

My Opinion:

I had high hopes for this program and while it was a colorful, user friendly website, it just didn't work for us. 

There wasn't much instruction, but more videos in Spanish repeated a few times.  I think the goal was for the kids to pick up on what the words were by watching (hence, the immersion part of the program).  This frustrated Josie since she couldn't figure out what they were saying.  I had her continue and she did learn a few words, but didn't enjoy it.

I've said this before, but Josie has a hard time with a lot of computer programs.  She just doesn't get into it, which results in opposition.  If you have a student that enjoys computer time, this very well may be a great program for them.  Immersion style learning has a huge success rate.  I think I would try this style again when she is a bit older.

Product Details:

Spanish Courses - $120
Click to read Crew Reviews
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Mobile Preschool

So it's no secret that I love Mother Goose Time.

Without it, Gabe wouldn't be getting any school time.  And honestly, he's 4 so that wouldn't really bother me, but after 4 comes 5 and we are planning to enroll him next year in the same enrichment school Josie goes to so he kind of needs to know some things*.  Like the difference between blue and yellow.

* forgive my excessive run on sentences.  yes, i homeschool and still can't get a handle on most grammar skills.

Mother Goose Time has been the perfect solution.  Little time from me needed with some major advances in his little brain.  My one problem has been all the awesomeness that comes each month and finding a place to put it.

Christy (you remember her, my almost Farm House neighbor?) is also using MGT and she came up with a fabulous idea for all the extra supplies and all that come in the box.  We are doing her exact plan.  So that left me with finding a way to use the Circle Time material without having to hang it up in my house.

I've told y'all before, I love homeschooling but do not love having school stuff all over the house.  It's just not my thing.  So when I saw someone use a tri-fold board to display the material, I was sold.

$3 and an episode of Law & Order later, I had a perfectly put away-able board to use with Gabe!

Each month, Gabe adds a new color bird and shape card to our board.  The flowers in his hand are his sight word and letter of the month cards.  The blank spot on the left hand side is where I clip the big letter card that we are working on that week.

It's working great for us! 

* we aren't using all of the circle time material.  i stink at doing calendar, so that's not on our board.  neither are the center labels, sign language chart, or weather tracker items.  i only added what i knew we would use.  just wanted to let you know that there is even more great stuff than this!