Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lots of stuff going on these days and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

John and I both have student loans. John's are from way back when (though some of mine were combined with his just after we married) and I have a small loan from when I tried to go back to school for a semester. I did well but got pregnant before the semester ended so never went back. They ended up in default either during or shortly after our time in Korea and we've been spending the last year working to get them out of default because one issue with having student loans in default is that you don't get your tax returns; they go towards the student loans. So, we finally get them both out of default which meant being able to file our tax return (late but we did get them done). We got the return and we've been using the money to catch up on bills, set aside first month and security for a new apartment, and we used a good chunk of it to put money down on a car and then financed the rest of the amount. So now, we own a car and it's a pretty new car (for us as the newest we had previously was 1996). It's a 2005 Mercury Sable. It's been very nice to have a car again and makes life much easier to not have to totally rely on public transportation. Not to mention, having a car means not having to rent one in order for John to attend the Feast next week.

With the Feast of Tabernacles looming on the horizon, we've been preparing for that. Well, I haven't been too much myself because I'm not going with them this year; I'm staying home and getting a mommy vacation. But John is going down to the Dells with the two girls which means a bit of preparation needs to be done. He needed a new suit, haircut, new glasses, new shoes. The girls needed new tights and new shoes as well as clothes. They will be gone for 9 days so there's a bit of packing that goes into all of this which makes life a lot of fun during this time but once they are gone, I will have this nice week plus to get some things done around the house and in general, be able to pretty much go where I want without having to rush home for one reason or another. I will also get to drink my coffee and eat my toaster strudels in peace and have full access to my Kindle Fire HD without two girls fighting over who gets it next. They will get Daddy all week, stay in a hotel that includes a pool and even a kiddy water slide area, and be able to go to parks pretty much everyday (or other places) while they are done there. So, it will be good for everyone. They leave Wednesday and again, there's just a lot to get done.

We're also trying to find a new place to live. The situation in our current apartment is not improving. The landlord is not keeping on the bug situation and that's been getting worse again after they were almost eradicated. It's frustrating dealing with roaches in various places along with the general lack of maintenance that is done here in general. He's not a very good apartment manager at all; he cares more about getting his money than on maintaining his apartments. Sadly, because these are three bedroom apartment and they're cheaper than other 3 bedroom apartments in the area and he's willing to take just about any kind of pet, this place will be in demand even though again, the lack of maintenance done here is just atrocious. I mean seriously, we've been dealing with roaches here for close to two years. I'm done. And if that didn't do it, the fact that my husband's bike was stolen off the deck right in front of our apartment pretty much seals it for me.

The side of town we live in is the pits. It's the side of town that isn't dealt much with because it's the poorer end of town and it's not where the college students live. The college student area is the one that is always getting the attention and the focus and that's frustrating. It just seems to me like the town cares more about the college students, the kids who come and go, than about families who actually want to stick around. So more families are moving out of the city and into surrounding areas which is what we're looking to do. Hopefully we'll find something and we won't have a hard time getting a place to move to even with the lousy landlord (he hasn't been real big on giving his tenants decent references).

It's kind of frustrating because this is the only place we've lived since returning to the US 3 years ago and I really wish I hadn't moved here because of my sister. There were other options I could have looked into and I was pushed to find something quickly because she was getting kicked out of the place she was staying. And then she didn't even stay; she moved out as soon as my husband returned home.

So yeah, lots going on and lots to do and definitely never enough time to do it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership Review

SpellingCity has been a great way for my seven year old first grader to learn her spelling words in a FUN way! When I tried to do spelling with her earlier this year, she hated it. She didn't like having to sit down and take the practice test, she didn't like the worksheets she had to do, and she just didn't find it very fun. It didn't help that she had to do a lot of writing which is not something she overly enjoys doing either. And yet, she was always asking me how to spell words. She's done it so much that my three year old has started to ask how to spell words too!

This website has been a great teaching tool for her. The games make it fun so that she actually WANTS to do her lessons. We have been using the Summer Program word lists and there have been a good combination of easy to spell words as well as harder words. And because the assignments differ with each list, it keeps her from getting bored. And because she types for the tests, she can focus more on the spelling of the words than on how she's writing them which is a big thing when you have a child who still wants to do a lot of writing in all capital letters. I definitely plan to stay with this program for the upcoming school year.

One thing I do want to note and it's something I notice particularly because this was something I had to deal with when I was in school. I'm hearing impaired and one thing I had to learn to do in order to adapt and be able to take my spelling tests was to learn to lip read. This helped me with beginning and endings of words because I specifically had trouble hearing consonants. So, something to keep in mind if this is being used with a child who is hearing impaired is that adaptations may have to be made since the tests are given orally over the computer speakers. A hearing impaired child may have some trouble so something to consider may be to, as the parent, read the word out loud as well with the child facing you. It's something I happened to notice when listening to the tests and so wanted to point that out.

Outside of the tests, everything else is reading based with simple instructions and my daughter had no issues navigating through her assignments independently. I'm very glad I had a chance to review this program because it has become an excellent spelling resource for us.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Vaccine Debate is NOT Black and White

This is one debate I'm getting a little tired of. Along with breastfeeding/formula feeding, vaginal/cesarean birth, homeschool/public school, stay at home/work, it's become quite the top of dissent among mothers. The idea here is that there is a right and wrong answer. Now, what that is depends on who you talk to, of course. But there are definitely two sides: you either do or you don't.

There's this idea that those who don't are selfish parents who not only do not care about their children but also do not care about the children in their community. Their unvaccinated children will bring about the very diseases that doctors worked so hard to eradicate. These children should stay at home, never play outside, never go to school until their parents get their heads on straight and do the right thing for the whole community.

There's also this idea that by vaccinating your children, you are poisoning them, chancing that they will have a horrendous reaction, chancing autism which has to be the worst thing to strike a child outside of death.

Both beliefs, I think, are a little crazy. Sadly, I've been dealing more and more with the first one since joining a number of secular/non-theist type groups. I think science is great. I totally believe in the whole idea of finding evidence for everything out there, especially for the various religious beliefs. HOWEVER, I also believe that there is more than one side to the story.

Yes, a number of diseases have been decreased, some even totally eliminated (like small pox). However, at the same time, we're seeing an increase in auto-immune diseases. Is the one related to the other? Were diseases decreased solely through vaccinations? What part does changes in sanitation/water/food have? What part does better access to food and medication have? At the same time that many of these vaccines came about, other medications arrived too including antibiotics. We learned, in general, what caused diseases and how to prevent them and stop/slow their spread. We learned about handwashing and good hygiene. We cannot simply ignore the part these things played in the decline of diseases because they are just as important! In fact, it's because some of these things are not in place that I think vaccines are still needed in many parts of the world. It is due to these other things that vaccines ARE still needed.

However, to condemn parents for deciding NOT to vaccinate, to go so far as to say that parents are SELFISH for not choosing a certain medical treatment, for looking at both sides of the vaccine issue, I think that goes too far. Deciding whether or not to vaccinate is not an easy decision in some cases. In other cases, it is. For most parents here in the US and other developed countries, who have access to clean water, sanitation methods, ways to wash their hands, and access to medicines such as antibiotics, it's not a black and white decision. Both decisions do carry risks (just as there are benefits and risks to ANY medical treatment). We are not facing life and death situations on a daily basis like we did at one time (back when many children did not live past the age of 5 or even 1). Outbreaks of these diseases ARE rare and if an outbreak does occur, the diseases CAN be treated. Not to mention, if there was a wide scale outbreak, many parents probably would reconsider vaccinating and in some cases, there is even time to do so even in the middle of an outbreak. For example, you can get vaccinated for the chickenpox if you had recently been exposed to it. I'm sure it's similar for other diseases.

I'm not one to say that parents should not decide to vaccinate because it's not my decision to make. It's a decision that each family should be able to make based on their unique circumstances and their own beliefs about vaccinations. Doctors should be willing to sit down with families and have a full conversation about vaccinations including what situations puts a child more at risk for certain illnesses, potential complications from the illness as well as potential complications from the vaccination itself. Doctors should also be prepared for the fact that outbreaks CAN occur in fully vaccinated populations and should be on the lookout for symptoms of diseases children are vaccinated against both in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. Doctors should be on the lookout for reactions to vaccines as well and do everything possible to work with the parents to get to the bottom of those complications as well as make a full report on those complications instead of trying to sweep them under the rug. In other words, there should be full disclosure from everyone involved with vaccination from doctors all the way up to the CDC. Because really, without that full disclosure, without people being upfront about EVERYTHING related to vaccines and diseases, the sense of mistrust will continue and vaccinations will continue to be a hot button topic.

In the meantime, parents will continue to have to make the best decision they feel they can make based on what they know and everyone else really needs to just have and show more respect to the decisions that parents make for their children. Until that happens, there will be many more cases of groups blasting each other over this very contentious topic.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity Review

I've been given a Premium Membership to VocabularySpellingCity.com for a candid, personal, online review.
VocabularySpellingCity helps students study word lists using 25 different learning activities such as Unscramble, Hangman, WordFind, and Crossword Puzzle. Parents can create their own spelling lists, find published lists already available on the site, or use any of dozens of free teaching resources on topics such as Analogies and Syllables. Be sure to come back in three weeks to read about my experience.
There might be more free memberships available for bloggers. If you're interested, find out how you can review VocabularySpellingCity.com



This is another site I'm looking forward to checking out. Natalie keeps asking me to spell words for her all the time and I think she will enjoy playing games and learning spelling that way over taking spelling tests.

We took a little bit of a break but now I'm hoping to finish up the "year" by October.

Okay, I never said I was conventional but that is the plan so far. We're still using Time4Learning and I plan to continue with that until she finishes the first grade portions of math, language arts, and languages arts extension and the second grade portions of social studies and science. After that, I'm going to either look into other options or continue on with Time4Learning. I really like how everything is already set up and how easy it is for Natalie to navigate it which means she's working fairly independently. However, I'm also thinking I would like to at least add to it as well, especially in the subjects my daughter is particularly interested in, like science. I'm still trying to figure out how to get it all together though and I think eventually I will, just will take a bit of planning and a lot of organization both skills I'm not the greatest at, I admit.

And, in the meantime, I would like to also start working with Isabelle on pre-school stuff. Not much as she'll only be three but a start especially as her sister is working. I'm getting some ideas in my head too on things I can try, especially as my oldest is really into My Little Pony. I swear I spend half of the day just thinking of everything!

So, while we're doing all of this, I'm also trying to get the girls out and doing activities because this is the time of year when all of that is available. I'm trying to encourage Natalie to read as well as that's been something she hasn't been too big on doing on her own. She loves when I read to her (and unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan of reading out loud myself) but getting her to read on her own or even read to her sister is not so easy.

Next couple of weeks I'm trying to get as much in as possible then Natalie is supposed to be off for a week at summer camp. After that, I'm hoping to go full speed ahead until early September.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

We're finally getting somewhere with the homeschooling!

We did the one month trial of Time4Learning and to be honest, I felt I hadn't given it a fair shot. I wanted to try it a little longer to see if we could get more out of it. I'm VERY glad I did. I went back, sort of stepped back to some of the earlier lessons, and gave it another go. Natalie is doing much better with it now. We're getting around 3 hours a day, four days a week with her studies. Plan is to continue through the summer and hopefully be done with all of the first grade stuff by the time September rolls around. Since there are a number of holy days in September, we will use that time for her to take her "summer" vacation before she starts second grade, probably in October. I'm looking to only really take a month off for summer. That month though will give me an idea as to whether I want to continue with Time4Learning or try something else. I will probably also start to figure out what Isabelle can do since she will be three at that time and can certainly start doing some things too. Obviously it won't be anywhere near as much as what Natalie is doing but it will be a start.

Days around here have been interesting though. Isabelle has entered that stage where she's into EVERYTHING and constantly getting into trouble. It's never a good sign when she comes into the bedroom and the first thing she says is, "Don't get made Mom!" NEVER a good sign because it means she's gotten into something she KNOWS she's not supposed to get into. One time it was the eggs in the fridge and she cracked one of them over the carpet in her sister's bedroom. Another time, she had taken the butter into her room and put a bunch of stuff in it. I tell you, this is the one that's going to make all my hair go white! She is just into trouble constantly!

She has her own room now. We made a switch with the bedrooms a couple of weeks ago. My office is now in the large bedroom with bedroom furniture. Isabelle got the room that used to be our bedroom and Natalie got the room that used to be my office. We're still trying to get everything organized and put away but it's getting there. Figured by the time we move out we'll have it all set. lol

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Time4Learning Review

So, I had a chance this past month to review Time4Learning https://www.time4learning.com/. This is our first year of officially homeschooling. We first started with Connections Academy which didn't work out too well because of my first grader's reluctance to do her lessons and thus, falling behind. I withdrew her back in January and I've been trying to find things that motivate her ever since. I'm still trying to learn her learning styles, what excites her to learn, and things like that. She enjoys video games, plays her My Little Pony video games all the time and does enjoy the Brain Pop Jr. videos quite a bit. So, seeing this program, I wondered if it would be something that she would be interested in as well. The problem is is that being a single income family, finances are really tight currently and spending ANY extra money right now can be a bit of a hardship so I wanted something I knew would work before I put the money into it each month, even if it was low cost for each month. Therefore, I was very happy to get a chance to try this program out because I was really looking into using it but was still kind of unsure if it would be something that would excite and motivate my first grader.

Looking at it, I thought the math was very thorough and had pretty much everything that my daughter would be doing this year if she had remained with Connections. There wasn't much in the way of worksheets as it was mostly online. I really liked the fact that you could look a grade ahead or a grade back in order to go over things that your child might not be as well versed in even though she might be ahead in other areas of the same subject. So on that level, there really is a lot that can be done. The program also is fairly easy to get around for the student. You're mostly using the mouse and there's a back button and a home button to get to where you need to go. Students are shown where they are at in the section they are working on so they can just keep moving along without having to remember what they had already worked on. Parents can look at what their children worked on and be able to see how they did. Lessons can also be done and redone until the student understand the concept.

That said, my daughter wasn't quite as interested in it as I had hoped. I think part of that was because I was still trying to figure out where she was at in as far as the subjects we were working on (this was mainly the case with language arts) and part of it, again, the difficulty we're having with finding things to motivate her school work wise in general. The lessons were easy to get through time-wise but in our case, that was kind of an issue because she would want a break to follow and it wasn't always easy to get her back to work. Again, I feel this is more of a personal thing with our daughter than anything to do with the program. My two and a half year old was definitely interested only she can't use a mouse that well yet. The music though attracted her attention and if she was just a little older, I would most definitely look into it as something for her to use.

I like the program and it's something I would love to look into for my youngest and for my older daughter after spending more time figuring out where her grade level is for the various subjects. I think it would be a GREAT program to start with for a child who is not yet in school because you can start at the beginning and work your way up at your child's pace. I'm not saying that it can't be used for older grades, I just think it may be a little trickier to figure out what level to start with for an older child and may take more time in the beginning to do so.

So that's my review based on our current family and financial situation. It's kind of the first review I have written about something I've used for homeschool so please take that as well as the unique personality of our child into consideration.