Review of a Pencil Sharpener

So you read the title and your thinking, seriously Peters? Your gonna write about a pencil sharpener? Well, truth be told I’ve been looking for one of the old-fashioned librarian pencil sharpeners for quite a while and haven’t come across an antique one which is built much sturdier than the ones you find today. In the process I’ve come across what could be the Three Musketeers of Bad Pencil Etiquette. First there is the ultra expensive electric wonder, followed by the mid-priced hand crank splitter and last but not least is the free, never reliable little cutter that couldn’t with no backing – you know the one that sheds all over because it’s doesn’t have a capture and of course your kids cut their finger because the blade is exposed. It was so bad that two years ago I said out loud during school one day “I wish I had a decent pencil sharpener!!” ….and E got me one for Christmas… it ate through batteries and that was about all it ate, never sharpened a pencil – but it made a great game of “Watch the Pencil Spin”…. ok enough ranting… let’s talk about this pencil sharpener we were asked to review….

So the pencil sharpener came in the box no directions…..and this is how the process went….

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…it took them quite awhile to figure out how to use it… their engineering skills were put to the test…. now my kids fight over who gets to sharpen pencils… they volunteer (gasp I said the word!) to sharpen and the points on the pencils don’t break off inside the sharpener. What I also thought was a great idea, they sell replacements parts when you need them. So instead of disposing of the entire item once the sharpener dulls, you can just replace the blade, the catch tray, or even the clamp. Great way to reuse instead of replacing the entire unit. The unit is also so quite…you don’t even know it’s in use.

We aren’t going to tell you how exactly to use it because that would spoil all the homeschooling fun! ❤ However, my daughter did say to mention that it helps if you “put your left hand no top of the gadget to hold it down a bit so it doesn’t wiggle.”

This is an amazing tool that is a must have for any home school family or teacher. I can’t express enough how nice it is to have a simple need met by a quality tool. Check out Classroom Friendly Supplies for one of these sharpeners today…. they come in green, blue, red, black and even pink.

Happy Sharpening…….*******************EcoMom22 was given this product to review. All opinions shared here are my own as well as, in this case, the twins and were not influenced in any way by the product provider. Please read our full site disclaimers & terms of use here.*******************

Welcome Back…. You do strictly homeschool, right?! Uh… Uh…

This summer has been a whirlwind. We have been here there and everywhere trying to make as much out of the summer as we could. While summer isn’t over, we do have to start getting back to our regular schedule.

I’ve met alot of people this summer and had alot of conversations about homeschooling and what that means. Since so many people concern themselves with labels I thought I would clear up how we run our school at home.

I have a Master’s Degree in Post Secondary Education and spent alot of time writing and auditing curriculum. This included developing mixed media classes where a portion of the classes were online and on ground. As I took my conversations from this summer and compared it to what we do in our own home I had an aha moment. While obviously our children are still in primary school; in our home we do what could be considered a mixed media learning environment. We are enrolled full time at K12 and like the structure, curriculum and support of the teachers and staff. However, I also choose to supplement with my own lessons – generated from a variety of resources. I would say that we teach our kids mixed media via virtual and home school. (Whew! There! I said it! Now we have a label too…..)

What I find interesting is that people are so quick to label the type of education without taking the time to understand the format of it; and how it applies to what the child truly needs. Our kids need opportunities to explore subjects more (for example last year we started a virtual Science lesson about the layers of the oceans and what animals are in them; then we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about all those creepy critters on the very very very very bottom of the ocean. How did they get there? How do they see? What do they eat? Do they get cold down there? How can they make that blue light glow?) On and on the questions went, we kept looking up information. This is called understanding a child’s curiosity to learn; and NOT ignoring it. The love of learning is like a fire which must be stoked; and never squelched because of a label or particular predetermined view you have of a delivery style/type of education. Questions are the fire; the fuel is the way you respond.

Please don’t let the label of the educational delivery style deter the way you teach your children, please allow the children’s curiosity and love for learning to drive the path of the education. Ask yourself this, if you were at my home and we were doing a K12/Virtual lesson on triple digit addition – would you not allow your child to participate because it isn’t pure homeschooling? If the answer is Yes, wow – guess what all kids have to learn triple digit addition, does it matter if it comes from K12 or pure homeschooling? If the answer is NO, bravo your an open minded educator.

Be open and understand that every child learns differently, it’s all hard work but if mixed media works – don’t judge others, support others – everyone’s is on a path to educate their children and help them become strong, smart, free thinking, open, well-educated and successful adults. (And success doesn’t always mean marrying a billionaire, having a Stanford education, developing the next successful IPO and wearing a perfect Prada suit to work. For some it means virtual/homeschooling, climbing Mt. Everest and calling home for money because you’re trying to decide if you want to be a fashionista or a famous rock star).

Hope everyone has an amazing school year!! 🙂

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha

Oak Meadow Curriculum Giveaway

Remember the awesome iPad Giveaway DenSchool had a couple weeks ago? What an amazing organization and now they are partnering with others to giveaway something to help prepare your curriculum for next year!

We have teamed up with DenSchool and Teaching with Cents to bring you this great giveaway from Oak Meadow! Enter today on the Giveaway Tools form below.

One lucky reader will receive a Complete Curriculum Package (of their choice) from Oak Meadow. Imagine that, everything you need for homeschooling your child next year – for FREE!

Complete Curriculum Package Review

Oak Meadow has specialized in homeschooling curriculum for 35 years! They are committed to providing creative, innovative, and child-centered educational materials that can be utilized towards every family’s needs and routine.

We believe that true intelligence arises when children are given opportunities to engage not only their heads, but their hands and hearts as well. Our curriculum includes assignments that ask children to read, write, and think, and also to paint, draw, play music, write poetry, and build things, encouraging balanced and healthy development.

Oak Meadow

Have you begun planning your next homeschooling year and not sure where to start? Stop by DenSchool to read reviews for some of your favorite curriculum packages! There, you will learn all about Oak Meadow and what this great giveaway has to offer you!

Visit DenSchool’s Oak Meadow Reviews

DenSchool has reviewed curriculum packages for Grades 3, 4, and 6 – with an 8th grade review coming in August!

Contest Information:
*This great giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, ages 18+.
*Giveaway ends on July 24th at 11:59 p.m.
*DenSchool Contributors, immediate family members, and group giveaway bloggers are not eligible to enter DenSchool giveaways.

Owens Beach

Yesterday we had a school outing with our other virtual and home school friends for an End of Year gathering at Owens Beach in Pt. Defiance. I forgot how beautiful it is and thought I would share a few pictures. There was a book exchange, journals handed out, lots of analysis of seaweed, sand castle building, exploring, looking for a giant sea star, climbing, running and lots and lots of joy! It was a great way to start the summer…. I keep hearing Dr. Seuss in the back of my head saying “Oh the places you’ll go…” I’m hoping this summer will be filled with new parks and lots of exploration.

Hope your summer gets off to a good start as well. Enjoy the learning journey!

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DIY Science Fun

I was reading a recent Blog post about doing a science experiments. We did a couple of these and we thought we would add in our own notes, just in case someone was struggling a bit.

First one was called DIY Tornado In a Jar. It was a lot of fun to create, but there was a bit of a hurdle: you must use a taller jar, like a spaghetti jar – you can not use an oblong jar, such as a glass Nutella jar. The shorter the jar the more difficult it is to get it to make the actual tornado. 🙂IMG_4592

Second one was called floating egg. My kids thought I was crazy when I told them you could make an egg float, but sure enough it can! Make sure to mix the water to  IMG_4401   IMG_4399 IMG_4400 the exact measurements otherwise it won’t work. The kids would have done this one over and over if they had a choice!

Last one for these weeks was making a potato clock. The kit can be purchased here, or at World Market. Here’s the ubber super cool (according to the twins) thing about THIS experiment: it doesn’t work on humans, but it does work in tomatoes, lemons, apples, potatoes… the list is endless. We kept the clock going for several days. Until……..air started to ripen the apples, then all you had to do was insert the nickel and copper probes into an unopened part of the vegetable or fruit, and it starts all over again.IMG_4301

Next up for us is making clean water and seeing which liquids seeds grow best in. These should be fun!


Enjoy the summer!

Second Chance Ranch & Rescue

We took the opportunity, on the recommendation of a friend, to take a home school class out at Second Chance Ranch & Rescue in Rainier, WA. It was truly a treat to take the girls out there, they had a great time!

As soon as we got there we were greeted by teacher/trainer Amy. The girls were both very excited, as they carried around their bike helmets their eyes got bigger and bigger with all 50+ beautiful horses they had on the property. However, after walking around, Emma generated a certain bond with a particular horse. This kindred soul was called Greatful – a retired race horse, 18 hands in size, strikingly gentle and handsome, from a local racetrack in Auburn. Katie took the time to get down to E’s level and talk to her about how it was ok to cry and be scared but that at one time Greatful was afraid of people as well – just like she was afraid of him. E trusted Katie enough to let her teach her how to feed Greatful a carrot, and once E accomplished that she bonded with Greatful, and Katie, with ease. Even after looking at all the other horses she didn’t want to be with anyone else but Greatful. E’s spent the rest of the aftenroon writing about Greatful in her journal, as well as telling her story at dinner time.

K, a little braver, wasn’t quite as afraid to feed the horses, until she had two carrots in her hand and walked by five horses in stalls to get to a white horse she desperately wanted to feed. As she was walking by, all the horses tipped their heads out of the stalls and because she is so tiny she was face to face with all of them. As a parent, looking at it, it was a tad funny because the horses all new and wanted what she had in her hand. However, in her little mind all she knew was when she zigged a horse came down to greet her, and when she zagged a horse said hello! Amy came right over and explained to K that the horses wanted the carrots and they thought she was going to give them. She took K over to the white horse and fed it. On the way back around the barn, the horses were still checking her out, but this time she thought it was pretty hilarious and went and got more carrots to feed her new friends.

K had one more hurdle to overcome in riding. She was so excited, but when she got ready, standing next to Greatful she panicked. The more she panicked, the worse her Sensory overload became. It became so much that she was rocking back and forth in my arms and shaking. Amy and Mommy to the rescue. I lifted K up and took her over to Greatful and had her put her hands on the blanket under his saddle. Amy stepped in and softly spoke to Kayla explaining the Greatful was also afraid at one time, but to try touching different parts of his saddle and shoulders. As soon she was at the same height as Greatful and touching him and the saddle she started to calm down. I told her she wouldn’t get another chance to ride because I was afraid she might go through this again. Amy walked around to one side and I lifted K up and as soon as she was on the saddle, her entire self just relaxed and a huge shine came over her face. I went to go walk with her and she said “No, MaMa, you can stay – I got this.”

I was really blown away by not only those situations with my kids, but the time the staff took with all the kids. Amy taught the kids about grooming the horse and gave them each a chance. She explained about the farrier and horses nails. She talked about saddles, what they eat and exercise. The kids had a ton of questions and she patiently answered all of them. After riding they were treated to a show by another horse from Germany called Konjak (I thought it was Konji, but the twins have promptly corrected me!). He did addition problems, played hide and seek, gave hugs and kisses and poses for pictures. What a great group!

Amy, the trainer, and Katie, the owner, were amazing with all the kids. They both have a lot of education and experience with kids and animals. They both took the time to help the girls over their fears and created a sense of confidence. The classes are more than reasonably priced, as well as the riding lessons. While we only took a beginning class, we will be heading back to take a few more classes.

Please go out and visit, or contact Amy or Katie for the next class. They also offer riding lessons at a very reasonable rate. By visiting them, not only are you supporting local business, but your supporting a cause near and dear to our heart, animal rescue. We promise, you won’t regret it!
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3 Ways to Stay Motivated as a Homeschooling Parent

This is a great motivational tool for looking at homeschooling from a different angle. We all suffer from days of not wanting to do anything or getting stuck in a rut.

Simply Senia

The post-holiday winter months are often one of the most difficult periods for a homeschooling parent. The dreary weather can close the family in the house for weeks on end. Additionally, cold and flu season can sidetrack the most dedicated homeschooling parents. January, February and March are so challenging because the holidays are long past, spring seems ages away and school feels like it will never end. As one long-term homeschooling parent put it, “To be so short, February feels like such a long month.”

Learning to stay motivated is what separates novice homeschooling parents from life-long home educators. When you are tired of the same old books, the same old routine and cabin fever sets in, you have to figure out how to force yourself keep going. By preparing for these difficult periods and expecting them to come, feelings of gloom and boredom need not sidetrack your home school…

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The Seat Cost of Educational Decisions

I know, I know you get tired of me talking about homeschooling. However, I had an aha moment the other day when visiting with two other parents about educational choices. One had chosen to put their child in a Montessori school where the child could get the balance of educational vs. social/emotional well being. The other had chosen to put the child in a publicly funded Montessori school. This means that while it had the benefits of the Montessori teaching, ultimately it answered to public school regulations, as such that parent was concerned with the child’s educational development because there was only “so far” the publicly funded Montessori could move the child forward.

This is the crux of the very conversation I have been trying to have people understand about publicly funded education and educational choice. Two things you should try to understand:

A. Every child, no matter how advanced, who attends public school, must be labeled into a particular grade. Unless they are participating in an Advanced Placement (AP) or Gifted Program (or another program of that nature) the normal placement is based on age. For example, some children I know are attending an online public school which allows home school style instruction. These children completed Kinder in 6 months, and then were sent “advanced” materials (which are technically 1st Grade materials) but they were not advanced to first grade. They stayed in Kinder and worked on 1st Grade materials. This is because it is a publicly funded program and needs a particular amount of “seats” per grade and is funded by that “seat” count (think of it like headcount for a department in the workplace). Currently that same family is now labeled as 1st Grade and is almost prepared to finish and receive “advanced 1st Grade materials (basically starting 2nd Grade). However the nice thing about this program is the child works at their own pace an is never held back from new materials as long as they are grasping and applying their education.

B. Every child who receives their education from an institution which is State Funded (thereby making it “public” education; and this applies no matter what the platform semi-private, online, public) has a “seat price”. This “seat price” is paid to the public schools by the State and the US Government (no need to go too deep here). Everytime you remove a child from a publicly funded institution that institution loses that “seat money” and that is why they may make it difficult or cause you to “explain yourself” when you are unenrolling your child.

To the best of my knowledge through my own research (disclaimer: I am not a lawyer)…..There is no law which states you must explain yourself. There are some school districts which ask you to meet with particular school superintendents in the event that you’re going to strictly home school; so that you can layout the child’s educational path.

Please ensure that you are educated about what decisions you are making and what you are and are not required to provide the school. Do not feel bullied into making a decision you don’t feel comfortable with, or allow school officials or others to make you feel uncomfortable. Just remind yourself, whatever educational choice you make for your child; public, private,partial enrollment,  Montessori, semi-private or home school it’s your choice and it’s your tax dollars, but bottom line it’s your child’s future that matters – not “seat money”.

***Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, these are my opinions and information I have gathered based on my own research in our home school journey and apply strictly to WA State. Please ensure you do your own research in your area on laws and regulations regarding public school and homeschooling.

Thanksgiving Lesson

This has been a bit of a year of self discovery for me personally. Our girls are growing up too fast! As they get older I try to intertwine school and life lessons together. I was tossing and turning the other night trying to decide what to use to teach our kids about Thanksgiving. There are two meanings to Thanksgiving – there is the Indians and the Pilgrims and then there is the bigger lesson about love and forgiveness. I choose the latter this year, they’ve got plenty of time to learn about the history.

We spent alot of time discussing what we were thankful for.

Emma: I’m thankful for my Rabbi (stuffed animal), my family, and sissy. I’m thankful for sissy’s hugs….Sometimes I’m thankful for Twinkies. I’m thankful for gymnastics.

Kayla: I’m thankful for my Rabbi and my blankie, and my sissy and my Mommy and Daddy…. My family, and swimming, and my pets and I’m thankful for my school at home. And I am thankful for my home.

It just reminds me that all the racing around and the drama that gets added to 60 days out of the year really doesn’t matter. Kids have a funny way of equalizing everything and allowing all the BS to filter out and let the important things shine through. So, I decided I’d do the lesson myself, and write my own:

MaMa: I’m thankful for my loving, hardworking, kind hearted, handsome husband who cares for us and never asks twice about anything; he makes the worlds most amazing father with the patience and endless love for his two little girls. 15 years is a long time to be with someone, and even though we’ve had some bumps, we are stronger today than ever because we equalize each other and we both understand what matters most is what’s under this roof, not what’s outside the front door.

I’m thankful for our beautiful blessings of twin girls whom I waited my entire life to have – being their Mommy is my biggest gift. I’m thankful for our animals Bunkie and Dora who allow us to laugh and play dressup with them and they never blink an eye. I’m thankful for my SIL and BIL who love our girls beyond measure and always support us with words and actions; I’m grateful our two families get closer and closer every year.

I’m thankful for my SIL for being a true best friend, one who can help me laugh at myself even when I’m being bullheaded, take me to task when I need it or giggle with me when I’m exhausted and can’t put two words together. I’m thankful for my parents who are much more worldly than I and always share all their experiences and their life lessons with love, patience and understanding. I’m thankful for PaPa who is always happy to see his sweet grandbabies and always has a laugh ready to share.  He never judges, just takes it for what it is and enjoys his time.  I’m thankful for our son Tyler, who challenges us during his teen years as teens should, but who is a kind and always makes time for his little sisters.

Mostly I’m thankful for my life, this year I’m thankful I learned that life isn’t about other idiot’s attempts at instigating fights or causing drama;  it’s about the hugs from my husband, the laughter of our girls, forgiveness and knowing whose important and impactful on our families life and whose not. I’m thankful I’ve learned to speak my truth and understand gratitude. Screw everybody else, we’re “HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY” over here ya’ll (and we love it!).

Happy (all be it late) Thanksgiving from our crazy family to yours. ((hugs))


The Case for Educational Pluralism

The Case for Educational Pluralism
Alternatives to the state-funded educational monopoly.

Article | First Things.