Thursday, 31 May 2012

Butterfly World and Garden

A visit to the Butterfly Gardens with the US home schoolers .  What kid doesn't love butterflies!.


Kids love this butterfly which had wings shaped like dead leaves.

We saw many different types of butterflies.

Next we went to explore the outdoor whimsical gardens.

I enjoyed the outdoor house garden

Dining room garden
 Bedroom garden
 Kitchen garden
 Bathroom garden
 Next we went to the sculpture garden
 The wall was built with recycled material.

Kids enjoyed hunting for the items found within the walls

The Thyme garden

Lady bug hanging out

the flower pot scultpture
 Lots of fun places to hang out and enjoy

Trowel tunnel

There was also a bug house were we learned about lots of insects.  Then we discovered the leaf cutter ants climbing a rope all around the building.  Kids loved following them around the room.

We had a lovely day at the Butterfly house and learned lots about butterflies and other insects.  The gardens were amazing and full of fun and whimsy.  We will definitely go back once the construction process has been completed next year so we can see even more things they plan to add.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

So You Think You Wanna Homeschool -- Review

Tiffany from Sweet Phenomena has written her first ebook!  YAY!!    I was excited when she ask if I would do a review.  I have been following Tiffany and her blog for about 18months and find her to be really down to earth and realistic about homeschooling.   Tiffany's book So You Think You Wanna Homeschool is also written in this way.  Tiffany has a way of writing so when you are reading it you feel as if you were sitting across from  her having a conversation and a cup tea.

So, You Think You Wanna Homeschool? eBook

Tiffany has been homeschooling since 2009 (right around the time I started home schooling) so this book shares with you all the wonderful knowledge and resources she has uncovered since then along with her first hand experience.  Not only will soon to be first time homeschoolers enjoy the many resources listed in the book, but veterans, like myself ,will discovered resources that they may not have heard of.  I am still checking out many new sites and resources found in this book, many I plan to implement in my home school.

Some of the topics discussed are:

Brief state by state guide of homeschooling
Organizing your home school
Types of styles of home schooling
Supplies and resources
and so much more...

 In addition to her new ebook, Tiffany is building  Pinterest site where she plans to continue to update links and add resources for Home schoolers.

For this week only Tiffany is offering her book for only $4.00 (regularly priced $8) and sponsoring a give away from Microsoft -- Home office and Business CD 2010.  Make sure you stop by her site Sweet Phenomena and order her book and sign up for the give away.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Shopping at Harrods

We have lived an hour away from London for over 3 years and have traveled there many times but this was the first time we made it to the famous department store Harrods!  We have heard a lot about this store and wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

Outside the store the windows outside the street were deck out for the Queens Jubilee

The famous Egyptian escalator the goes up 5 floors

The ceiling above the escalator

Harrods Mascot

My daughter fell in love with the Harrods Dragon and willing purchased it with her allowance money

Anyone want a Harrods bath duck--yes there are some tacky items for sale there in the Harrods gift shop!
 As a family we walked thru the store but certain areas were by appt only.  I am sure you have to prove you can afford to buy something in those areas.  So we made our way to the Harrods gift store, (along with all the other tourists) the only part of the store where we could afford anything:), but even that area was expensive.  I did find a couple of things on sale to bring home cause you have to leave the store carrying the famous Harrods green shopper bag:)!

I wonder if I should be insulted that the clerk didn't ask me if I had a Harrods card like he did for the person in front of me:)!  I guess I don't look like the kind of person who has a Harrods card, LOL!!!

The Diana and Dodi memorial erected by Dodi's father Mohamed Al-Fayed who used to own the store until 2010.  The pyramid holds the wine glass that is smeared with Diana's lip stick from her last meal in Paris before the fatal car accident.  Anyone besides me who thinks that is a little sick....

The supposed engagement ring Dodi purchased to give to Diana was also cased in the glass pyramid

In a different part of the store is this statue of Dodi and Diana with the caption "Innocent Victims"  Dodi and Diana are dancing on the beach and the Albatross flying above them symbolizes the holy spirit.

 It is here where my husband wants me to point out that I made him visit these items, he wanted no part of it, LOL!!!
Outside the store with our purchases. 

We walked away with 4 green Harrods bags:)  I am thinking of saving them but my hubby thinks that is ridiculous:)!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Heritage History Review

My family received the CD British Middle ages from Heritage History as members of the TOS crew. 

Heritage History offers a total of 5 curriculum series in its current catalog:

1.  The Young Readers which is designed for grammar school age students and introduces them to      Western Culture.
2.  The Ancient Greece collection
3.  The Ancient Rome collection
4.  The British Middle Ages collection
5.  The British Empire collection

Study aids that accompany each curriculum include:

1.  Age specific core reading recommendation
2.  Dozens of history maps.
3.  Outline maps and geography terms.
4.  Summary of each historical era.
5.  Battle dictionary listing all wars, battles, and conflicts.
6.  Short biographies of famous characters.
7.  Time lines describing major events of each era.
8.   Hundreds of high quality images.
9.   Accountability records 

The CD we received --"The British Middle Ages Classical Curriculum features books that cover the fifth to the seventeenth century in both continental Europe and the British Isles. Topics covered include the fall of Rome, the Christian conversions of Germanic kingdoms, Chivalry and feudalism, the Crusades, conflict between church and state, the Reformation, and the rise of parliamentary democracy in England."

Using this CD you would be able to transfer the stories to a readable device like the kindle, use it on a computer or print out the stories and put in your own notebook.  Which ever way that suits your child's learning style.  While there is a lesson plan there is still some work needed to pull everything together to make this your history program.

British Middle Ages Curriculum CD: $24.99
Printed Color Study Guide: $24.99
Dowloadable Study Guide: $12.99

Click here to see what Crew Members had to say about Heritage History!

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of the British Middle Ages CD from Heritage History in order to complete this review.  The opinions offered here are my own and not influenced by my receipt of the product.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Gecko eggs and babies

Our neighbor across the street is really big into gecko's.  So much so that he has turned his second bedroom into a breeding ground for his geckos.  No they aren't running around freely in the room, however,  he does have boxes full of breeding pairs of lizards.  He is in the process of breeding certain colors into his geckos and then sells them.  I was shocked to hear he can get over 300  pounds sterling (about $450) for a single gecko based on its specific coloring. 

Our neighbor was kind enough to give my children a Leopard gecko 2 years ago, and often invites the kids over to take a look at his newest gecko.  Recently we were invited over to see the new eggs and baby gecko's he had.

One of his incubators for eggs

Second incubator for eggs
on average a female gecko will lay 2 eggs
Geckos will bury their eggs in dirt.  Here he is removing one of the eggs to place in the incubators
The eggs are soft at first but then harden.  Geckos do not watch over their hatched eggs.  So removing them is not a problem
In this picture he is showing us the embryo inside the egg he does this to determine which way to lay the egg down in the incubator.  If he lays it down the wrong way the embryo will drown in the yolk

One of the new babies.  Only a couple of days old.  Breeding for lighter colors is more valuable.  Unfortunately this little one did not survive past the first week of life

A more normal colored gecko, also not as valuable

Another lighter colored gecko this one is healthier than the other one that died.
This little one is shedding its skin for the first time.  Geckos eat their skin

This is the container he keeps his baby geckos in. 

One of his slightly older geckos, behind him is just one of the many towers of gecko containers there must be 50 or more of them in his house.  He has a very understanding wife who supports his hobby of breeding geckos.

Not sure why but breeding geckos to a lighter color is more valuable than a gecko that is its natural dark color.  I don't know if this makes the gecko weaker in the long run.  He is doing so well with his hobby that he is able to reduce his work to part time and really concentrate on breeding and selling geckos.  The kids and I are hoping to be able to see a gecko hatch out of an egg soon, he says he will let us know when that happens, so far it has always happened late at night, but maybe one will decide to come out during the day and we can ran over to watch it hatch.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Write Shop Review

My family was given the opportunity to review Write Shop book C as part of the TOS crew.  Since I have one very reluctant writer I was eager to give this a try.  Write Shop was created by two home schooling Moms and is an incremental writing program. Each lesson builds upon the previous one  and continually includes review of the previously taught material to reinforce what is being taught.
There are three books in the elementary series and the guidelines for choosing are book are as follows:

No Prior Writing Experience
Limited Writing Experience
Writing at
Grade Level
Writing above
Grade Level
Book A
Book A
Book A
Book A
1st Grade
Book A
Book A
Book A
Book A or B
2nd Grade
Book A or B
Book A or B
Book B
Book B or C
3rd Grade
Book B or C
Book B or C
Book C

Book C has 10 lessons which are as follows:
1.  Planning the Story
2.  Writing a Mystery
3.  Self-Editing
4.  Journal Writing
5.  Describing a Thing
6.  Describing a Person
7.  Describing a Place
8.  Writing a Book Report
9.  Writing a Simple Report
     (no research needed)
10.Writing a Simple Research Report

The program offers parents several options for scheduling the writing program so if you only want to work a 4 day school schedule you have that option or if you have a slower writer, like I do, you can stretch out the lessons into a 3 week schedule.  I really like the flexibility this!!

Another thing I like was with each activity there were often additional parental notes giving you options for doing things a little differently if you chose.  This was so helpful for me as my youngest didn't always like the first option of the assignment but looking over the parents tips I was always able to find a slightly altered activity that made him happy and made things much easier for me:)!

You can purchase Write Shop either as a ebook $28.95 plus activity book $4.50, or a print addition $32.95 plus activity guide $4.95.  Write Shop also also more advance writing programs on their site.

My family thoughts:
I liked the program it gave options for scheduling allowing for flexibility, always a plus.  I like that there were additional suggestions given after each activity so if your child wanted to do things differently you had ideas already written down for you.   I used this program with my DS who is 7 and a very reluctant writer and my DD who is 10 but a much better writer.  My children like that there were many different activities for each lesson, that while each activity reinforced writing they weren't all writing activities.  For example the time memory game in the first lesson.  My son love it and ask to play it several times...while I can't find the picture I took of them playing it, trust me it as a hit for them both.  The game was so successful I modify the game after playing it several times and we were able to create our own verbal stories using the Story template we made, another activity suggested by Write Shop.   We then wrote them down and read them to Daddy when he got home.

Write Shop is offering 15% off any WriteShop Primary and Junior products in the WriteShop store (including e-books) using coupon code CREW15 at checkout. Offer valid through June 15, 2012

You can read more reviews over at the TOS crew page.

 **Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Cupcake Nazi

I am sure most of you have heard of the Soup Nazi from the TV show Seinfeld.  Well, last week, the children and I meet the Cupcake Nazi!!  It is at times like this when I wish I was a gifted writer so I can make this story really come to life on this computer screen.   But alas, I am not so try to bear with me here as I try to relay the story and find the humor in it.

We were attending cupcake decorating class with some of our fellow UK homeschoolers.  This was being held in a local operating cake decorating store.  We were escorted in to this absolutely amazing room filled with the most amazing decorated cakes.  So I (along with several other parents) immediately started taking pictures of these amazing creations.  The children were oohing and ahhing and generally fascinated with the cake designs.  My children particularly were astonished to see these cake designs as their mother (me) is a very basic cake designer, as in there is icing and rainbow sprinkles on top of a cake that bears more resemblance to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and that is it:)!  

I had only taken 3 pictures before the store owner told us quite loudly and firmly we were not to take any pictures of the cakes on display and asked to immediately delete all pictures.  I complied with the request, but, luckily, there is a difference between "Delete" and "Delete All" on the camera!  I thought this was a rather strange request, because her cake designs can be found on her website (which, surprisingly, isn't CakeNazi.Com!).  I know this because I have since checked!  Who knew that cake designs is a secretive business........

I'd post a picture of one of her cakes, but I'm afraid that I might get a letter from her attorney (what if she reads my blog...........).

Once the children were settled at the tables, 4 children to a table with one knife and two rolling pins to share between them in the center of the table, the parents were ask to leave the room.  Well, this I had a problem with as I have a child who needs additional assistance.  When I informed the owner of this, I was told to stand at the class room door.  In addition, all the parents were told not to take any pictures of our children decorating the cupcakes as we would have pictures of her cakes in our photos.  I never realized there was such a thing as cake espionage, but there must be.  I guess we could have been sent by a clever cake design competitor thinking "I'll send in a group of homeschool moms with young children; they'll never suspect them of spying".  Alas the competition would be wrong as we were highly suspected of cake design espionage:(  I wonder if there is money is this line of work!

Well you can imagine this did not go over well with a bunch of homeschooling MOMS!  Many of us, myself included ignored this rule and we zoomed in, from the doorway,  to capture our children decorating their cupcakes.  The store owner, who was also instructing the class was not happy--so much so that she twice asked to speak to the organizer of the event privately to inform her that the parents must comply with her demands.  The organizer tried hard to work with this women to come up with a compromise, but after giving the organizer a second scolding the owner attempted to shut the door to the room where the children were seated.  Unfortunately for her, I was standing at the door and refused to budge.  She tried to shut the door, but luckily, I have a very tough foot and managed to wedge it in the door.  We the exchanged stares for a second like two gunfighters in a B-movie Western, I said not a single word, she backed down and left the door open.  I wasn't leaving my children in a room with her unattended for even a second!!

While I will admit she was very friendly with the children, there were still a few problems, like having only one knife (luckily, not sharp!) and two rolling pins at a table that four children had to share, which meant waiting turns, and lots of time for children to not be busy and looking for others ways to amuse themselves.  Hmm, a room full of young kids being told to wait their turn for a chance to decorate their cupcake--you can imagine how THIS is going to end!  It was not long before there were children rocking back on chairs, hanging over the low barriers separating the children from her precious cakes.  Children climbing under the tables and generally trying to find ways to amuse themselves while waiting their turn.  At that point, I think I was rocking back and forth too, foot firmly planted in the door, thinking of my Happy Place.

I was worried that a child (not necessarily mine) would knock over one of the cakes by accident.  Every once in a while a anxious parent (me included) would rush into the room to try to settle a child down and then quickly leave.  Talk about being on pins and needles.

Little Man patiently waiting his turn for the knife to begin frosting his cupcake

Princess having a turn at icing her cupcake

The finished masterpieces

Thankfully the kids had no idea of the crisis occurring in the other room and once they got to eat their creations we were able to forget the inconveniences of the day.  Mom on the other hand will be avoiding all future cake decorating classes and stick to my rainbow sprinkles!!!

That evening, when my husband asked where his cupcake was, I responded "NO CUPCAKE FOR YOU!!!!!".