Saturday, July 20, 2019

V is for Victory Garden (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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During both World War I and World War II, there was a food crisis in Europe as to how to feed the troops. Farmers enlisted and their farms were often turned into battlefields (whether intentionally or not). Who would feed the men who were serving on the two sides during both great wars? In both wars, the United States was able to step up and provide food for a variety of reasons.

To ease food shortages and supplement food rationing, many families grew victory gardens during the wars. Because the task of growing a garden was something kids could do, they were able to participate in the war effort on the home front. All available idle land was recommended to be utilized by citizens. So one might see fruit and vegetable gardens not only in people's front or back yards but also in school yards, parks, company grounds, or vacant lots.

Promoting an Idea 

One of the ways that the idea of planting a victory garden was promoted was through the use of propaganda. This means proved to be efficient for other things during the war effort so why not pushing a positive agenda like sowing "the seeds of victory." Private and public organizations helped promote the idea of planting one's own vegetable garden such as women's clubs and chambers of commerce.

Teaching people how to properly plant, harvest, store, can, and dry their produce came in the way of pamphlets and guides for the amateur gardeners. It was estimated that there were 5.2 million gardens by the end of World War I and that by the end of World War II 20 million victory gardens had been planted.

Popular Foods Grown 

Food rationing and the diversion of food stuffs for the military and troops in World War II, led to more victory gardens (as previously stated). People become even more creative in where to plant them, such as window boxes and patios for apartment dwellers. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt even planted a victory garden on the White House lawn, although she did not tend the garden herself.

Of the foods planted, the following were among the most popular: beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, peas, carrots, tomatoes, and squash. Of course, depending upon where someone lived and the time of the year, different crops would also be planted. It was possible to have three gardens: spring, summer, and fall/winter gardens depending upon the crops chosen. The excess food was able to be canned and used in the winter to supplement breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Whether people grew victory gardens for economic or patriotic reasons, the growing of fruits and vegetables at home did help commercial farmers provide for the troops overseas, put additional food on the table during the time of rationing, and bring people together as a nation. Perhaps it even influenced the more modern movements of sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Read more history-themed posts at A Mom's Quest to Teach

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Fun Summer Math Learning: A Review of Pattern Block Activity Bundle

During the summer, our family likes to go light on the homeschooling lessons. So reviewing the Pattern Block Activity Bundle from Crafty Classroom was perfect for us! With over 700 pages, the ebook PDF file has 230+ unique picture designs for your children to use with their set of pattern blocks. Our kids love working on these types of activities. We were impressed that there were three different levels for each design as well as 8 different activity pages that incorporated counting, graphing, tally marks, addition, subtraction, inequalities, writing, shape identification, ordinal number words, number words, and sequencing. The bundle will help you create "no-prep learning centers for the entire year!"

Crafty Classroom offers "top quality teaching resources" that are "low-prep" but provide "hands-on fun" for your homeschooling family or classroom. There are a variety of products for preschoolers through third graders that cover language arts, math, science, geography, and bible studies.

What Do You Receive with the Pattern Block Activity Bundle? 

A 731-page PDF eBook with several pages of explanations, the 8 activity pages, printing instructions, and the actual pattern block pages that cover the following topics:

  • Capital and lowercase alphabet letters 
  • Numbers 
  • Farm Animals
  • Forest Animals
  • Ocean Animals 
  • Zoo Animals 
  • Transportation
  • New Year's Day
  • Valentine's Day
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Earth Day
  • Easter
  • Fourth of July 
  • Thanksgiving 
  • Christmas
  • Winter
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall 

Page three explains the three levels (easy, medium, and hard), how to use the set, and the breakdown of what you get and on what page to find them in your file.

As I mentioned, there are three levels of pattern block pictures. The easy level shows the geometric shapes in color where you need to complete a letter, number, or animal. The colors match the blocks from the set we own. 

The medium-level page shows the picture in black and white but the block shapes are still in color at the bottom of the page. As you can see, your child can write down the number of block shapes they needed to complete the picture at the bottom of the page. 

Finally, the hard level is just the basic outline of the picture with the shapes in color printed at the bottom. This level caused some difficulty for our children because it does require them to think outside of the box. We also found that we didn't always have to use the blocks as suggested on the easy and medium level pages. 

Who is the bundle good for? The bundle is perfect for preschool through first graders. Using the activities sheets, they can have fun while refreshing their math skills. In addition to using them as suggested with the pattern blocks and placed in plastic sleeves, I could also see my kids enjoying coloring the pages using the appropriate block colors. (And to be honest, I enjoyed working on the activity sheets with my kids. It was a bit like solving a puzzle.) 

How Did Our Family Use the Bundle? 

When the Bundle arrived, it was right before the Fourth of July, so I went to those 23 pages first. I selected several for our children to work on, including those from the medium and hard levels. (I didn't print out any from the easy level as our color printer is not working.) I also went through and printed out the first few uppercase letters and numbers. Our daughter then picked some summer pictures and animal pictures.

The Fourth of July pictures included this firework along with fire crackers, an eagle, statue of liberty, and stars.

On several evenings, after snack but before bedtime, our children worked on the pattern block pages. They started off using the medium-level pages (the hard ones were apparently too hard according to them in the beginning). They worked through the pictures both separately and together using our two sets of pattern blocks. 

One of the animal pictures that our daughter picked.

We then worked on some of the activity sheets. Some of the activities included new ideas for our son and daughter. I think their favorite activity sheet was the graphing one. I had to print out additional graphing sheets for them to work on during our homeschooling day. 

I love how easy it is to use these pattern block activities during the day in our free homeschooling moments. And that my kids can pull them out of the folder themselves and work on them whenever they want to on their own. They don't realize that they are actually working math skills as they complete the pattern sheets. If you put them in plastic sleeves, you could organize them in a binder by category to make it easier to find the exact pages you want for each lesson or activity. 

One of the activity sheets that requires the student to add the shapes.

Our son's favorite part? He liked the activity sheet where he drew the cow he built with the blocks as well as the tally sheet he used with the car pattern block sheet.

What about our four-year-old daughter? She really liked doing the graphs as she is just starting to read (and writing is still a bit in the future for her). The graphs let her fill out an activity sheet like her brother at her level. She really liked the Statue of Liberty, sand castle, and the animals we printed out.

I would recommend homeschooling parents, parents of children who attend public or private school, or schools pick up the Pattern Block Activity Bundle (there are different purchase options depending on whether you homeschool or are purchasing for a classroom). They make a perfect math activity for your children to cycle through in their regular classwork. So if you have a bag or box full of the pattern blocks, pick up this bundle for your home or classroom!

They look really cool with the transparent pattern blocks.

Do You Wish to Learn More about Crafty Classroom?

There were other products reviewed by the Homeschool Review Crew. Families reviewed the following:

Please visit the reviews to see how other families incorporated these products into their homeschooling day. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Book Club: Book Review of Exhale

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Another fantastic book I was blessed with reviewing is Exhale: Lose Who You're Not, Love Who You Are, Live Your Own Life Well by Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory from Bethany House Publishers. The 230-page paperback book is broken into three parts with alternating chapters written by one of the two authors as they share their wisdom and experience to help women who feel under pressure to "being all things to all people; of filling every unfilled spot at church, work, and home; of trying to do it all right, make decisions that benefit everyone else, and keep everyone happy" (back of book jacket).

About Exhale 

Each of the 18 chapters specifically addresses the three parts of the book (that are part of the title). For example, Part 1 examines the idea of losing who you're not by looking at how one can change because Jesus empowers change, how our failures help us grow, and how we are to help others and not meddle. As well, it focuses on the fact that Jesus is ready and waiting for us to trust His love and grace for help. Through scriptural references and Bible stories, we see how Jesus is ready to help us. For example, Amy relates the story of Peter's denial and how even with this Jesus still loved Peter. If Jesus can gaze "at Peter with love," He can show us compassion and mercy as well – no matter what our mistakes.

At the end of each chapter there is a brief part that asks the reader to "now breathe" and provides a jumping-off point for reflection. The chapter then closes with great quotes such as: "Lose Who You're Not, You're Not a hopeless case" (84).

There are also wonderful quick reference guides for each of the three parts. These refresh the quotes at the end of the chapters and the main idea of each part. There are two columns (Old Mindset and New Mindset) at the bottom of the page that help bring home the ideas to the readers. I really liked how this is broken down and written because it helped me remember what I had just read.

The book concludes with a prayer, a personality quiz (that is referenced in chapter 10), a glossary, and additional information about the authors and their other projects. There is also information about where you can get additional information on their website for group studies and resources for reading the book.

My Thoughts 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading and reviewing Exhale by Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory. This was another book that I found to be extremely helpful in my own life. I sat there with a pen while reading it to make notations and underline ideas that I wanted to go back over and re-read to apply to my own life.

I think the chapter that hit home with me the most was: You're Not Really Wonder Woman: So Breathe a Sigh of Relief. This chapter by Cheri Gregory discusses the idea of meddling versus helping. I must confess I am a 'problem preventer' by looking at the story of Rebekah from the Bible and the distinction made between helping (asks and respects) and meddling (assumes and presumes). Truly amazing to be reminded that I am "not the fixer of every problem" (75).

I highly recommend Exhale: Lose Who You're Not, Love Who You Are, Live Your Own Life Well by Amy Carroll and Cheri Gregory. I felt that the book helped provide me with a great framework for "fulfilling the desires of" my heart, loving my family well, and "bringing Glory to God."

Friday, July 12, 2019

U is for U-2 Incident (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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The years after World War II were full of tension and ripe for conflict as nations tried to find a new normal after the destruction of many European and Pacific countries. Of particular interest for students of American history are the relations between the Soviet Union and the United States in the late 1940s into the 1950s. There were periods of calm to extreme tension as diplomatic relations fluctuated during the presidency of Eisenhower. One of the events that led to extreme tension was the shooting down of a U.S. spy plane over the Soviet Union—the U-2 flown by Gary Powers.

One of the sights – the testing of an atomic weapon in Las Vegas – that demonstrated the rising tension in the world.

A Failed Spy Mission 

On May 1, 1960, Powers was on a top-secret mission to photograph military installations in the USSR. The plan was that he would fly from Pakistan to a landing zone in Norway after a nine-hour flight. When flying over Sverdlovsk (present-day Yekaterinburg, Russia), a Soviet surface-to-air missile exploded near his plane. A second missile made a direct hit and the U-2 plane began to fall from the sky. Powers bailed and floated towards the earth. He was surrounded by Soviet forces.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced that an American spy plane had been shot down four days after the incident calling it an "aggressive act" by the United States. As the US did not believe that much of the spy mission was left after the crash, they said that it was merely a weather plane that had accidentally flown off course and was shot down. On May 7, Khrushchev proved that this was false as he produced a photograph of Powers, imprisoned, and evidence recovered from the wreckage of the plane. Powers was alive in Moscow and had testified where he had taken off from (Peshawar in Pakistan) and that he worked for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

It was now evident that the U.S. had been conducting regular spy flights over Soviet territory. Eisenhower took full responsibility for the flights but this meant that Khrushchev denounced Eisenhower and several hours after the Paris Summit had started, the Soviets left.

The Paris Summit 

Because of the U-2 incident, Khrushchev felt that he could no longer cooperate with Eisenhower. The Soviets also abandoned talks on nuclear disarmament in June. A new level of tension emerged between the U.S. and USSR in the final year of Eisenhower's presidency. This would lead to even more tension during the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

What happened to Powers? 

As the higher-level world leaders discussed spy missions and flights, the man whose failed spy mission started the whole thing remained in a Soviet prison. He was put on trial for espionage and convicted and sentenced to 10 years of confinement. After approximately two years behind bars, Powers was exchanged in the first 'spy swap' between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in February 1962. He was exchanged for the Soviet agent Rudolf Abel.

Powers wrote about the incident in Operation Overflight in 1970. He worked for a Los Angeles TV station as a helicopter pilot until he died in a helicopter crash in 1977. Gary Powers was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Note: Images from 

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Virtual Refrigerator Art Link Up

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Who loves stickers? Who loves sticker books? Stickers and sticker books seem to be a favorite among children of all ages and since there is such a great variety out there it is easy to find something they might just fall in love with.

Sticker Albums 

I can fondly remember my two sticker albums from when I was a kid. My mom gave me two photo books in which to keep my stickers (And I also had movie ticket stubs in them as well as a few postcards from my early vacations. I guess you could say this was the start of my scrapbooking hobby.) I think my favorite stickers from my childhood were the "My Little Pony" stickers that came with each pony. Those had a special place reserved on my Fischer Price record player.

Our younger children have two composition notebooks in which they can put stickers. Our younger son is also allowed to put his stickers in a 3-ring binder that has plastic sleeves in it with schooling papers. They put the stickers they receive from the local library or their doctors' office in their notebooks or the ones they receive for holidays or birthdays.

Sticker Books 

Our son recently received The Lego Batman Movie Ultimate Sticker Collection book for his birthday. The book has about 30 pages on which you use specific stickers to examine the heroes, villains, vehicles, and places in Gotham. There are also tons of extra stickers so your child can create their own scenes with Batman saving the day. He has been reading or playing with it every day since he received it.

You can also pick up sticker activity books at the dollar store like we have for our daughter. She has one that focuses on animals but there are number-themed and alphabet-themed ones, too.

And don't forget the sticker books that let you place and replace the stickers over and over to create fun scenes. Both of our younger children have had several of those over the years.

According to our son, all the villains but the Penguin were captured.

The Penguin was captured later. He escaped from the police car and Batman and Batgirl had to re-capture him.

Using Stickers to Create Art 

I love that stickers let children tell complicated stories that they might not be able to illustrate on their own, depending upon their skill. So, even though our six-year-old can not draw elaborate pictures with Batman fighting the Joker, he can use stickers to help tell his story.

And using miscellaneous stories lets our children make up fun and unique tales.

Do have art to share this week? 

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