Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chalk Talk with Pam Back from Kazakhstan

I'm excited to introduce you to my IRL(in real life) friend, Pam! Pam recently visited Kazakhstan this summer with an organization called Interlink Resources. This is an organization near and dear to my heart as well as Pam's, so I asked her to tell us more about her trip. (Have no idea where Kazakhstan is? At the end of the post is a free printable mini-book about Kazakhstan. Use it in lapbooks, notebooking or as a reminder to think about this country).

1.  What exactly is Interlink?
Interlink is a non-profit humanitarian aid company working in Kazakhstan.

2.   Why did you decide to go to Kazakhstan?  How many years have you gone now?

I decided to go to Kazakhstan because I love children and have a lot of compassion specifically for orphans, so I felt very drawn to Savva.  I have been to Savva three times. (Savva boarding school is home for approximately 180 children situated in a small village near the Tien Shan Mountains)

3.   What do you do while at the orphanage?
Our primary purpose at the orphanage is to teach English skills through 90 minute daily classes and lots of free time interaction (the ability to speak English gives the children more opportunity for getting a  decent job when they are older).  However, I think everyone on our team would agree that our greater purpose is spending time building appropriate, nurturing relationships with the children.  We spend a lot of time hugging them, holding them, and playing games with them.

4.   What do you see as one of the biggest needs at the orphanage?

I believe the biggest need at Savva is personal connection.  The kids have been separated from their families for various reasons or abandoned, and there is naturally a sense of having been forgotten and/or rejected.  This year I realized that the adult staff who work at Savva seem to need those personal connections as badly as the children do.  I am not sure of all the reasons for that, but seemed pretty apparent to me.

5.   How have these experiences changed you?
I think I have changed in a variety of ways.  For one, the rest of the world is a whole lot more real to me.  I care more about people and what they are going through in other places.  More so, I realize my life can (and will be from now on) more than just the typical busy American soccer mom.  I love being a mom, but there is more to life than revolving around a busy family schedule.  My family is stronger because of making the necessary sacrifices for me to go and do something for people on the other side of the world.  We are less self-centered I think.  My daughters (ages 12 and 9) care more about others and are dreaming about how they can help.  I asked my kids how they think I have changed since going to Savva.  They said I am happier, not that I was unhappy before going.  They are right;  there is just a lot of joy in giving.

6.   What are some ways to get involved with Interlink?

A great way to get involved with Interlink is to sponsor a child at Savva through the Kids Connection program.  The money you send benefits all of the children at Savva, but the letters you write can actually change the course of a child's life.  The kids seem to live for letters from their sponsors;  it's that whole thing of needing to be remembered and connected to someone.

7.  What has been your favorite memory of your trips?
I have many, many precious memories of Savva!  One of the more poignant would be the first year I was there and the big tub containing letters from sponsors was brought out.  Less than half of the children are sponsored, but ALL of the kids were present nonetheless, and they pressed in with the most intense looks on their faces hoping to have a letter from someone.  When a child's name was called (because s/he got a letter), there was an immediate almost giddy response and a huge smile-it was amazing and precious!  Conversely, the many whose names were not called wore an expression of sadness and longing.  It was joyful and heartbreaking all at once.  Letters from sponsors mean more to these kids than Chrismas presents do to American children.

8.  What was your favorite Kazakh meal?

All of the Kazakh food I have had has been delicious, except the soup that had dill pickles floating in it.  I think my favorite is probably plov (rice with meat and vegetables) with a side of this salad made of shredded cabbage, carrots, and crunchy fried potatoes.  So good;  wish I had some right now!

Thank you Pam for sharing about your trip to Kazakhstan. While Pam was there, she was able to hand-deliver a gift to the child we sponsor. She told me that he never took off the gift we gave him. It meant that much! There are still children who would love to hear from a sponsor. If you feel a nudge, please check out the Interlink site and see how you can help. I have personally known many of the wonderful people working with this organization and they are making a huge difference in the lives of children and teens in Kazakhstan.

Here's a mini-book about Kazakhstan. I added a few blank pages for kids to add additional facts. My kids glued our sponsored child's picture and wrote about him on those lined pages. Feel free to share but please direct people to this post not the direct download file. See my printables terms of use.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Big Summer Fun: Wrapping Up

Am I the only one who thinks summer flew by this year? I can't believe August is just around the corner. I've started thinking and planning (kind of) our school year already, and I have been wishing to get back into the school routine again (things run smoother here with a routine).

Worn Frame Edges by Lynn Grieveson
Worn Strips No. 10 by Lynn Grieveson
Petit Jacques Kit by Lynn Grieveson
Home and Garden Papers by Katie Pertiet
Fine Line Border Lines No. 4 by Katie Pertiet
all (click layout for direct links)

Yet another part of me still wants to take time to soak up these last summer days. We took a family walk around the block last evening. It was so nice to be outdoors as a family. I pulled out our summer bucket list and we've done many of the activities on there, but I had hoped to do more. Due to the heat, my back, and just feeling crummy lately, we've had to nix some bigger outdoor activities (like camping, going to the zoo, hiking etc.) but I'm finding I'm just enjoying being with the kids doing simple things like letting them run through the sprinkler, watching them build sandcastles in the sandbox, and bringing them to the pool. I'm going to enjoy these last care-free days of summer before our schedule gets packed with classes, co-ops, and other activities.

So this will be the final Big Summer Fun link-up! Link up a current summer post or your favorite summer post of the summer!

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Scrapbooking Me and other Randomness

I actually took some time this weekend to do a little scrapbooking. I've noticed that I really don't like to scrap about me! My son took this picture and I decided to do something a little artsy with it. Oh, and least you think I'm so creative---the base of this layout is a template by Anna Aspens. She makes doing artsy easy! :) [All products are from You can click the layout to see the exact supplies]

Things are slowly starting to shape up around my house. Remember how I posted about the messy homeschool room? Well, I'm happy to report that it still looks the same :) The good thing is that I'm going to go to IKEA in a couple of weeks to see if I can get the Expedit bookshelf system (and maybe a couple of others things if I can tweak the budget). I'm looking forward to going because it will just be my dh and I! I can't remember the last time we've been able to go somewhere without a kid or two.

Things might be a little sparse on here in the next week or two. I've been feeling pretty crummy---I get to take my glucose test this week and I hope that's not the problem!  I've also been having severe back pain. I must be carrying this baby low or something. I usually don't get this pain until closer to 40 weeks and I'm only at 28! Some days I can sit long enough to blog, others I can't. I do plan to have the Big Summer Fun linky posted on Monday---so I'd love to see how you're finishing your summer! I also have another Chalk Talk interview that I'm excited to share later in the week.

Have a great Sunday!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Printable Geography Resources and More

First of all, I wanted to mention that The Homeschool Village is coordinating a pen-pal match-up for homeschoolers. This could be a neat way for your child to get to know someone from another area or even country! You must email your information to The Homeschool Village by this Friday, July 23rd.

I like to browse the internet in search of things I might use with my kids during the year. I thought I'd compile a list of printable geography resources just in case others are in the planning mode like I am right now.

1. Homeschool Creations:  Jolanthe has created a whole bunch of printables based on a unit she has been doing with her children over the past couple of years.  There are planner pages, flags, country fact sheets and more

2. Homeschoo Share: There are a ton of resources here both printables and units based on books. Check out the Geography Resources and the Master Geography Index to get started.

3. Homeschool Helper Online: Has several resources--- State Study units for Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Missouri (scroll down to the bottom of the page; country lapbooksfamous landmarks notebooking pages (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

4. Notebooking Pages: Geography notebooking pages --- for purchase. We've used several of these and have been pleased. If you sign up for the newsletter you can get a 25%  coupon. She also has some geography freebies such as outline maps and general notebook pages.

5. General geography printables such as wordsearches etc.;  U.S. state printables; South America printables

6. Sunflower Schoolhouse: If you are studying Canada, check out Honey's Canadian resources!

7.  Crayola: World Map ; coloring pages for U.S. states, Canadian Prime Ministers and Provinces, landmarks, nations, and places.

8. From what I can tell, everything is free here. I downloaded several of the paper dolls from various countries. Lots of resources.

9. Guest Hollow: Country & Cultures Lapbook Pack (free); country report form(free)

10. Activity Outline maps and printables

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

State Study Scrapbook and Lapbook

This year my two oldest kids will be studying our state history (I know, I said that last year, but this year they really are going to do it!). Since they will be doing a lot of this unit independently, I thought it would be fun to have them create a state study scrapbook and lapbook.

Roughed Up Maps No. 1 by Katie Pertiet
Basic Paper Alpha Notebook by Katie Pertiet
Stitched by Anna Borders Evergreen No. 1
Ingrid Solids by Michelle Martin

My kids will be creating digital scrapbook pages of the places we have visited plus several fun fact pages about Indiana. For the lapbooking elements, we will be using many from the Indiana History unit at Homeschool Share. The layout above it the title page for their books. They will be creating all the rest of the layouts using Photoshop Elements. We'll get the layouts printed as 8x8 photos and adhere them to the scrapbook page (I found 10x10 spiral scrapbooks on sale that we are using. Any top-loading album would also work).  My kids love creating on the computer and my plan is to try to actually go visit many of the sites in our state so they can scrapbook them. If you'd like to know more about digital scrapbooking with kids, check out my article called "Digital Scrapbooking as an Educational Tool"

At the end of the unit I hope they will both have a wonderful keepsake plus fact book of our state.

I went ahead and looked through Designer Digitals' store and found some digital products that would work great with geography theme projects. You could use them to create scrapbook pages for learning, regular scrapbook pages, hybrid projects or even printables (for personal use).  Most of these products can be used with any photo-editing software program. Just create and print! :)


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Monday, July 19, 2010

World Geography Mini-Unit from TOS

This week on Spell Outloud I thought that I would focus on sharing some geography resources. The first up for the week is The Old School House's Travel the World June Planner Module. These monthly modules are supplements to the School House Planner. You don't need to have the School House Planner to use these additional modules.

What is Travel the World Planner Module?

It is an e-book unit with information for the student to read, hyperlinks, mini-books for lapbooks and other printables. The Travel the World unit focuses on what is geography, some of the basic terminology (longitude, latitude, compass rose etc)  the continents, and the oceans.

How We Used the Travel Unit:

When The Old Schoolhouse first gave me the e-book to review, I had originally planned on using this with my 8yr. old dd and 10 yr. old ds. Instead, I was able to use it with all my kids at various levels and it was my 12 yr. old dd that really love the unit.

The unit starts out with 8 informational pages that are hyperlinked. My 8yr. old and I read the material together over a couple of days and followed the links which enhanced the topics that were being covered. My 10 yr. old and 12yr. old read and did the material on their own. 

Next my 3 oldest requested that I print out the word searches for them. There are also some other supplemental printables such as crossword puzzle,  fill-in-the-blanks, rebus activity, and acrostic poem. I usually consider these types of pages "fillers" but my kids enjoyed doing them.

I had originally planned for my 8yr. old and 10 yr. old to start their world lapbook. There are mini-books for each of the continents and a special travel book for the student to write about a country they are interested in learning more about. Though we didn't get to this part, I plan on having them start this project this school year. The booklets included in the Travel the World download will be the beginning of the lapbook  and we will add additional mini-books for each of the countries we study this year.

What I Thought:

I was surprised that I was able to use this unit with 5 of my kids. I appreciated the fact that there were materials included to cover various age-ranges. For instance, there are coloring pages of each of the continents. While working with the older kids, I gave my younger girls (and my 8yr old because she loves to color) the pages and they were so happy to be doing "geography" just like their older siblings. There is also a section on the e-book that is geared toward high-schoolers. So the information in the e-book can easily be customized for various age-ranges. I would say though, that the material fit best with my 10-12yr. old, but with help, my 8yr. old enjoyed doing it too.

Specs at a Glance:

E-Book: Travel the World!—June 2010 Issue
Publisher: The Old Schoolhouse
Price: $7.95
Format: downloadable product

Not sure if this is for you? Well you can check out a sample to see more of this geography resource.

There are 12 supplemental e-book modules, each for each month of the year.
* Every module is filled with interesting information and facts, studying a topic in-depth.
* We look far and wide to find the best additional resources to expand your studies.
* You'll find activity pages, quizzes, and puzzles your kids will beg to work on!
* Your children will enjoy coloring pages designed just for our modules.
* We include copywork to help develop penmanship skills.
* Yummy recipes in every module!

Disclosure: I was given this product for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

June Summer Memories

Documenting our Big Summer Fun for the month of June. :)
Digital Supplies by Designer Digitals

Linked up at:


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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Preschooler & Playdough

Today is kind of a dreary, humid day. Two of the older kids have special events to attend, but the 3 youngest are here at home getting into things looking for something to do. Thankfully, my almost empty pantry had all the ingredients needed to make homemade playdough!

Ingredients Needed:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup of water
1 TBSP oil
2 TBSP cream of tartar
1 package of Kool-aid (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together in a pot and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly. You will think that it is not working out, but just when you're about to second-guess yourself, the dough will form into a ball. Remove from heat at this point. The dough is hot! Wait until it cools to mix in food coloring. I actually mixed in dye-free Kool-aid while making the dough on the stove. I did that so that our playdough would smell good :)

I let my 3 1/2 yr. old help make the dough. I doubled the recipe.

She loved pouring in all the ingredients and was so proud to be making her own playdough. I really need to come up with more kid cooking activities to do with her. She had so much fun.

I went ahead and mixed the food coloring with the dough because I wasn't sure how messy that would be. It wasn't too bad. You could start it, and then let the kids really mix it in. At this point you can also add glitter. That sounded like too big of a mess so we opted not to do that :)

For a printable recipe card and lots of playdough links, check out Jimmie's Playdough article. 

abc button

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Big Summer Fun Link-Up

This past week we've actually been able to cross off a few things from our summer to-do list:

** We made ice cream (see ice cream recipe and printables)

** We went to the Farmer's Market and picked up some peaches and did some canning for the first time! I was so glad my mom was here to help me out. We started out small because I didn't want to be so overwhelmed that I would never do it again :)
Here are some recipes that look interesting to me:
Cia's Oil Roasted Jalapenos
Della's Sweet and Sour Pickles
No Pressure Green Beans
Blueberry butter and more----lots of canning and preserving ideas here!

** Celebrated my daughter's 12th birthday

Sarah, from Digital Reflections is traveling to Egypt with her family this week. She's listed some of the activities that she will be doing with her kids. I love seeing what she is doing!

Feel free to check out our Big Summer Fun master list too for more great ideas.

So I'd love to see what you all have been doing this summer! Feel free to link up your summer-related blog posts from the past week.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Homeschoolers with Messy HS Rooms Unite!

I know that when some of you see the pictures that I'm going to post below, you are going to get nervous, sweat and want to come over and do an intervention with me! For my daughter's 12th birthday, I told her that she could convert my office into her own bedroom. My office was over-stuffed to begin with, but my dd and my MIL managed to pack it all up and move everything to our front room aka school room. Before all my office stuff came into the school room it was a mess. So basically I've combined two big messes into one big mess---and I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. :)

Yes, this makes me sweat and nervous and feel very overwhelmed! Right now there is no way I can plan my school year or do anything creative. I really am an organized person at heart and this discourages me greatly. Thankfully I do have several friends that are going to help me go through things and brainstorm on how to make this room work for our homeschool and my office.

I "think" I would really like this unit from IKEA:
I  saw it in this room on Flickr:
and think that with some bins it would make a huge dent in organizing the mess. The only problem is that the nearest IKEA is a little over 2 hrs. away. I just might make a road trip though! I'm having a hard time figuring out what furniture pieces/storage pieces I need for this room. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them---especially with product links or pictures!

So since I have an overwhelming need to get something in my life back in order, I headed to Staples and Wal-mart for some of their back-to-school deals. I love feeling like I'm getting organized for the new school year and I love the prices!

Next I decided that since overhauling my schoolroom/office is too big of a task, that I needed to clean up some things on my computer. I'm organizing files, printing things and creating a binder to house all my blog/online deadlines, commitments, ideas and so forth. Next is to do the same for our homeschool, but I'll tackle that one later this week. :) Oh it feels good to have something in my life organized! :)

P.S. Earlier this week Michelle from Best Toys for Toddlers asked to interview me for the blog.  I am honored to be featured there today! :) Feel free to check it out!



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ice Cream in a Bag

This week on the HomeSchool Village the theme has been cooking with kids. I don't know if the activity we did is technically considered cooking, but it does involve food and is yummy!

Since it has been so hot out and we were celebrating my oldest daughter's birthday, I thought a fun thing to do would be to make ice cream. This was on our summer to-do list and since my nephews and niece were coming over, we thought making ice cream in a bag would be a special treat. I had originally planned on taking step-by-step photos but 1. it was hot 2. I'm preggo 3. high temperatures and being preggo don't mix well. :)

I did manage to take one photo of my 3yr. old eating her ice cream though :)  This recipe is so easy and yummy! The only thing you need to remember is to wipe the outside of the smaller bag once you take it out of the gallon-size bag. It is covered with salt and can ruin your ice cream tasting experience.

2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar
1/2 cup of whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
6 Tablespoons of rock salt
1 pint-size Ziplock bag
1 gallon-size Ziplock bag

Pour the first three ingredients into the pint-size bag. Seal it tightly.
Fill half of the gallon-size bag with ice and then add the rock salt.
Place the smaller bag inside the bag with the ice. Seal it tightly.
Shake, shake, shake and shake some more!

When it looks like ice-cream, take the smaller bag out from the bag of ice. Wipe the outside with a wet rag, open the bag and eat with a spoon! It was very good!

So what things have you been able to cross off your Big Summer Fun list?

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: You Shine

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July

Thank you to all the men, women and families who have sacrificed, fought for, and defended our freedom.

Tonight we are going to watch our town's fireworks display. The thought of fireworks made me remember this old School House Rock video. I love School House Rock! Have a happy and safe 4th!