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G. A. Henty Audiobooks - a review

While I love reading aloud, I have always had a hard time reading the famous G. A. Henty stories out loud to the kids, for some reason. I don't know if it's the rhythm or pronunciation or what, but it doesn't flow well for me. Recently, I wanted the kids to hear a G. A. Henty story to accompany our Civil War studies and was thrilled to be able to have someone else read it to us.

Jim Hodges Productions Review

Jim Hodges Productions is well known for their quality audiobook selections. They sent us With Lee in Virginia as well as an accompanying Study Guide in PDF format.

Jim Hodges Productions Review

The Story
There are 20 chapters in this story, with a total run time of 11 hours and 20 minutes. Each chapter is a little over a half hour long, with a couple chapters being a bit over 40 minutes. These are perfect for our after lunch circle-time reading. 

The story provides a southern viewpoint on the times. Henty lived in the South during this era and provides a unique perspective. The story is told through the eyes of Vincent, a teen son of a southern plantation owner. Prior to the story taking off, Vincent spent four years away in England, providing another interesting angle to the story. This makes for excellent discussion. 

So many Civil War stories are told through the eyes of the North, or unfairly, through the eyes of our modern awareness. It was a different time and culture. It is impossible for us to understand how anyone could justify enslaving our fellow man. There is no justification for it, but there can be understanding of the times, which is something we strive for in all other area of history studies and this should be no different. However, material that explains the true perspective of people living at the time is not in abundance, so I especially appreciated this book for our studies.

The tale includes several battles and stories of life in camp, spying on the enemy, fugitive slaves, and plans for reconstruction. Perfect for a Civil War study.

Study Guide
The downloadable PDF Study Guide is 58 pages long and contains vocabulary study, review questions, and activities. There are also quizzes for every 5 chapters of the audio book. 

I recommend working through the study guide's vocabulary list prior to listening to the story so that students are ready for the new words. The vocabulary words appear in the guide in the same order they appear in the corresponding chapter. These vary from chapter to chapter and you'll find anywhere from 3 to 21 vocabulary words, averaging around a dozen per chapter. 

Chapter Questions
Each chapter has review questions. These range from 4-10 questions, averaging 5 per chapter. These include comprehension questions, as expected, but they also include great thinking questions. Many deal with character traits, asking about positive and negative character traits exhibited by story characters. 

There are a wide range of activities available. These range from working on an ongoing Civil War timeline to playing an online game of tic-tac-toe. While there are some of the "filler" activities, such as crossword puzzles, listed, most activities are relevant. Students are encouraged to research many different contributing factors to the Civil War and I think there are many activities that greatly increase their understanding of this tumultuous time in our history.

These are review questions pertaining to the previous 5 chapters. There are 4 quizzes in all. 

Answer Key
Answers are provided for all questions in the guide. While there are some "Answers will vary" moments, these still include likely answers so that the teacher can know students are in the right line of thought. For example, one answer says: "Answers will vary: generosity, gentleness, hospitality, love."
I chose to not print the Study Guide, but to open it on my device and work through the material orally as a discussion time. The activity section often includes links to online activities or articles to read, so having it on the device is handy. 
If you've read my audiobook reviews in the past, you know I'm very picky about my narrator's voice. We definitely have our favorites around here. The entire family agrees that Jim Hodges has a nice voice, but it is just too calming. We can't focus! Each time we listen, one of us falls asleep. The study guide helps us to force ourselves to try to stay alert, so that we can answer questions. It really is a struggle though to not let our minds wander, even though it is a good story. But like I said, we're a picky family when it comes to narrators. You can hear him speak for yourself, describing this book's premise in the video below.

You can purchase With Lee in Virginia as an MP3 CD for $25 or as a digital download for $18. The accompanying study guide can be purchased for $12

The Henty audio recordings all come in MP3 CD format. I didn't read the fine print on this one until I couldn't get it to play in our van during a road trip. I knew the CD worked because we'd listened to it through our DVD player previously. So I learned something new. MP3 CDs play on computers, DVD players, or MP3 CD players. An easy solution was to upload the files and then download them to my phone. We listened to our book while painting at the farmhouse. You could also burn it to a regular CD.

The Henty stories are well known for their historical accuracy as well as for their adventurous tales featuring characters with valor and true nobility. There are many more stories available and you can learn more about them by clicking the Review Crew banner below. 

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Scavenger Hunts! (a review)

My kids have always loved scavenger hunts. We begin every school year with the tradition of hunting down breakfast with clues. My oldest has been doing scavenger hunts since he was 6 years old. He's 17 now and would still be disappointed if we attempted a new school year without a scavenger hunt.

After so many years of trying to come up with clever clues to entertain them, I jumped at the chance to use someone else's ready-made scavenger hunts. Clued in Kids is a fabulous new company that shares PDF and physical scavenger hunts. They generously sent us Multiplication Dragons as a PDF download and a physical copy of the Princess Clue Pad.

Clued In KidsReview

Clued in Kids recommends 10-15 minutes for set up of most of the scavenger hunts, and I would say that is accurate if you include printing, cutting, and hiding the clues. It is truly a breeze and can be done in 5 minutes!

Each clue includes a note at the bottom to tell you where each clue should be hidden. If you don't have some of the items mentioned (a television, a bicycle, etc) then you can omit the clue and go on, or add in an activity, such as jumping jacks to earn the next clue. Each card has a place to write students' names so that you can assign each clue to different players. Each set includes an Answer Key so that you can you help the hunters if they get stuck.

Clued In KidsReview

The Princess Treasure Hunt costs $8.99. It requires no printing, arriving as a notepad in a small package. It is perfect for ages 4 and up, though younger students will need assistance with reading. This is a great activity for 1-10 kids. Perfect for a birthday party! It includes 12 clue pages for hiding. 

I laminated my princess pages so that I could pass them on to my nieces once completed. We used dry erase markers to work through the clues. My princesses took turns with each clue. They hunted and eventually found their "treasure" in the washing machine.

Clued In KidsReviewMultiplication Dragons actually contains FIVE treasure hunts, making it fun to review the multiplication tables 2-6. This is perfect fun for a 7-9 year old, though my 11 year old loved being in on the fun as well. 

I used this activity as a special treat, replacing math for the day. As the kids got ready for school, I set it up and had it waiting for the math hour. 

We ran across a typo in the 6-facts: one clue tells the leader to hide the card near a lamp, but it should actually be hidden with the spoons. The answer key tells the correct hiding location.

Sometimes our hunts are a fun way to hunt to breakfast. Sometimes they include special treasures like toys or treats we can all share.

I love that there is no need for me to be on top of anything. I don't have to think up anything witty. I don't have to remember where I hid anything. I just plant them, go to bed, and surprise them in the morning. It's wonderful. 

Clued In Kids was created by Helen Bertelli, who has been creating scavenger hunts since she was a little girl, inventing them for friends in the neighborhood. Though not identical to the pay-versions, you can sample the style of these scavenger hunts through the free Puzzlemaker, plugging in data that you are currently studying for some fun review.

The Scavenger Hunt Clue Pads can make great stocking stuffers. If you purchase 3 or more, you will receive a free fold-up treasure chest. Another fun Christmas idea is the Christmas Greeting Card, which lets you send a hunt to a child through a Christmas card, complete with treasure. I haven't tried this one, but I plan to!

There are currently 25 hunts available and more to come! Check out some of the other puzzle options through Crew Reviews by clicking the banner below.

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It was a hard decision to make, but I decided not to join the Review Crew for next year. I have enjoyed being a part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for...goodness, a long time. I've enjoyed working with some great people over the years, I've loved having an outlet for my opinionated mouth to spout, and the curriculum junkie in me has really enjoyed getting to see so many great products. However, we're in a busy time of life right now and it deserves more focus than I have been able to give it.

There are several more reviews to be submitted before the year is over, so I still get to enjoy it for a couple of months. I will continue blogging, just not about curriculum. The new house isn't finished, but we're starting to move furniture anyway, so there will hopefully be farm blogging to come. Thanks for joining me for the ride. 

Standard Deviants - a review

We've tried something new this semester. Standard Deviants Accelerate gifted us with an annual subscription to Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses. It's been a busy season as we've remodeled and worked toward moving out to the woods, so we tried a couple months of primarily online classes so I could have peace of mind that they were learning without my being able to give them my full focus. 
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Unfortunately, SDA required an unusual amount of teacher focus and we have sad wasted two months of our school year.

SDA offers 14 courses:
  • Earth Science - grades 6+
  • Nutrition - grades 6+
  • Biology - grades 7+
  • Chemistry - grades 9+
  • Arithmetic - grades 3+
  • Fundamental Math - grades 4+
  • Algebra - grades 7+
  • English Comp - grades 9+
  • US History - grades 9+
  • AP Biology - grades 11+
  • AP Chemistry - grades 11+
  • AP US Gov and Politics - grades 11+
  • AP U.S. History - grades 11+
  • AP Eng. Composition - grades 11+
To use SDA, you first choose the courses you would like to use and then send invitations to students via email. Students must have their own email address to register for their class, which was new for my younger students.

Once registered, students can log in to their account at any time and choose from a sort of Table of Contents section under each class. Students can choose any chapter or lesson from this section, in any order. This is helpful if you are using the course as a supplement to help learn something specific. Students can jump straight into the area they need help with.

This is not as helpful if you want them to learn in a linear fashion. The classes they have completed are not checked off in any way; they do not change colors once completed or indicate that they have been completed. This leaves 4th graders trying to remember which lessons they have finished so they can know which lesson they should choose for the day.

After choosing the lesson they would like to learn, students begin by watching a video and/or reading a transcript of the video. It is not uncommon for the video and transcript to not match each other, with one providing information that is either not listed or is contradictory to the other, so students should be encouraged to pay attention to each and to make use of the section provided for taking notes.
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Let me walk you through a standard lesson for students.
In Arithmetic, for grades 4 and up, students begin with a chapter intro. You can read that full intro here and you really should lest you think I'm joking when I tell you that the mathematics assignment asks students to make a poster for a shape of their choice, which they then turn into an ad with which they "sell" their shape to their fellow classmates.

After skipping this introduction since few homeschoolers have "classmates" to whom they can sell anything, students begin a video for the lesson. This introduces some great information:
  • Points
  • Lines
  • Parallel
  • Perpendicular
  • Line Segments
  • Endpoints
  • Ray
  • Angles
  • Vertex/Vertices
  • Right Angle
  • Degree
  • Rotate
  • Acute
  • Obtuse
  • Congruent
All of this is taught in a video that is 7 minutes and 20 seconds long.

At the end of this video, there is an arrow and a button that says, "Next Topic". For the first week, this button confused all of my students from the 8 year old to the 17 year old. After a week, when I sat down to grade, it appeared they had all skipped work, and they had. The button does indeed take you to the next topic, but it does not take you to the questions and activities that pertain to the current topic. Those are listed as tabs across the top.

Once the tabs are discovered, students can view the vocabulary words for the lesson. Students can read the vocabulary definitions or click a button to have each word read to them.

This next section provides the information from the video as individual boxes that can be inserted into a picture or problems on the page. The instructions clarify at the beginning that each try will count against you. The pieces will not "stick" to the wrong spot, so students can continue trying until they find the correct spot for each box. Once each data box has been placed correctly, a box pops up saying, "It took you 7 tries to complete this diagram", or whatever number is appropriate. In this particular lesson, there were 7 boxes, so 7 tries is a good score.

This section is multiple choice. In this particular lesson, there are 5 multiple choice questions to quiz students. This includes questions such as:
  1. What do we call a bunch of points in a row?
Once finished answering, students click on the button that says, "Throw it against the wall and see if it sticks." A box then pops up telling them how many questions they answered correctly.

Written Answer
The same two questions appear at the end of every section of every subject, from math, to science, to English. They are:
1. How does the perspective of the thematic question inform your understanding of the topics covered in this section? 
 2. How does what you have learned in this section provide new dimensions to your understanding of the thematic question asked above?
The "thematic question" for this chapter is:
There is a box provided for students to type in their answers. There is apparently no wrong answer. There is also no grading key or reference for what a correct answer might look like.

In this particular instance, after studying lines and angles, students should ask themselves what the most basic concept underlying the subject of arithmetic is and then explain how that viewpoint informs their understanding of lines and angles. They should also explain how learning about lines and angles provided new dimensions to their understanding of the most basic concept underlying the subject of arithmetic. Yes, my 4th grader loved that one.
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Every section of every chapter of every subject
This concludes the first section. After this, it is then appropriate to click on the arrow and box that tempted students at the end of every tab's assignment: Next Topic.

In this particular chapter, there are 3 sections to complete. Each section can easily be completed in an hour, if the student is able to retain all of the video's information. It is unclear how the lessons should be spread out, allowing for flexibility for each family's preference.

Now let's look at the Teacher's Account.
Teachers have access to all of the courses so they can see what their students see. Teachers can view progress reports on each student and they can grade the class activities and written answers. Teacher's can also view Progress Reports for each student and class.

From the Teacher's Account, click on "Grading". Choose the class and then the chapter, section, and assignment you would like to grade. There is no way to know until you have opened the assignment whether you have already graded it before, so you'll want to make a list to avoid wasting time opening things you don't need.

Once chosen, you can choose which student participating in that class you would like to grade. If the lesson is graded, you will see a + sign. If that lesson is waiting to be graded, you see a circle symbol. If the student has not turned in that assignment, you see a - sign.

A rubric is provided to help you grade the assignments. This can be edited by the teacher to be personal to each family's preferences. The rubric provided allows you to grade, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well the student performed in the following:
  • Address of subject matter
  • Comprehension of subject matter
  • Use of original thought
  • Grammar/Organization
To grade the Written Answer, teachers are shown the two questions repeated throughout the entire site:
1. How does the perspective of the thematic question inform your understanding of the topics covered in this section? 
2. How does what you have learned in this section provide new dimensions to your understanding of the thematic question asked above?
The students' answers are also shown here. The thematic question it references is not shown, nor is any detail about the lesson other than the chapter title. There is no answer key. Students answer according to how they feel about the material and teachers grade according to how they feel about the student's answer. Eventually mine started answering, "I felt the same way about this time that I felt about it all the other times I've answered this question." And I, as the teacher, felt the answer deserved 100%.

I emailed the company about this ridiculous scenario and was relieved to hear that the written answers are completely optional and that if students skip this portion of each lesson, there will be no points counted against them. When I mentioned that the thematic question isn't shared in the grading portion, but that I have to go to the lesson itself, I was told that they would put this improvement on their wishlist. They also offered to look up the thematic question for me if I shared the section and class that I was grading, which was very kind.

Progress Reports
Click on Grading > Progress Report > choose the subject you would like to view > and then choose the student whose work you would like to view.

By clicking on her report card, I see that my 8 year old has a 92% in Mathematics. This does not show how many lessons have been completed or what areas she might have had trouble with. For that, you view the Progress Report. This section shows you a pretty circle with four different colorful sections you can click on to view details of different areas.

If I click on Group Activity, a message tells me there are currently no grades to show for this area. If I click on Subject Review, a message tells me there are currently no grades to show for this area. If I click on Written Response, a message tells me there are currently no grades to show for this area. Were there assignments for these areas? Did my child skip them? If so, my child did not receive negative points for skipping material, so that is apparently okay. I know for a fact that there is always a Written Response since that one must be graded by me and not the program, so I can track that one down by going back to the grading section and seeing if an answer was submitted. There is one last section in the colorful circle: Tests and Quizzes.

If I click on Tests and Quizzes, a chart pops up telling me that in chapter 1, section 1, my student received a score of 80%, in chapter 1, section 2, she received 80%, etc. It does not say what she might need to work on.

There is a section that shows Red Flags for students' work. It shares a bit more detail about the grades and I can then see that in "Addition/Subtraction/Estimating: Graphic Organizer", Sarah exceeded the number of errors permitted by standards. I cannot see which specific areas she needs work in, but I can see the specific topic, so we can go back and do that lesson over again.

Going through lessons a second time does not improve scores as the first answers submitted are the only answers recorded. This was unfortunate for my 9th grader who was pretty sure he knew much of the material and wanted to pre-test himself by completing the quiz first before watching the videos. It's something I encourage them to do in our book assignments, helping them become more aware of the sections they need to especially focus on in the chapters. He didn't realize these answers were part of his permanent score. Oops.

You can view the general idea in this video below.

We attempted the following classes:
  • Arithmetic for my 8 and 10 year old daughters
  • English Composition for my 9th and 11th grade sons
  • AP American Government for my 9th and 11th grade sons
  • Chemistry for my 9th grade son

The Math class hit a snag and wouldn't let us proceed. 

English comp
The Writing class did not require any actual writing assignments, only multiple choice questions. 

AP American Govt.
We completed AP Govt, but only because it was a very short class, consisting of one chapter with 4 sections, and one review. That review, of an AP level course, included this assignment:
(no really, read it; you'll love this) 

The phrase "there's always stick figures" was worrisome, as was the idea of conveying early influences on the constitution to mimes for an AP level course, but the warning attached to the Post Test was worse:
 The Bad News 
These were the questions you answered incorrectly(and if didn't get any questions wrong, luck you — you should already know the answers!)…
I very much appreciate that they were specifically quizzing on questions my students needed help with. I'm quite certain however, that the two week class did not leave them prepared to take the AP exam.

The Chemistry class actually shared a good bit of information and my 9th grade son said he was almost overwhelmed by the data until he realized that the questions asked in the quizzes were insanely simple and barely covered any of the information thrown at him in the videos.

There were several other classes we had intended to utilize, but we changed our minds once we realized what we'd gotten ourselves into.

Things I liked:
It is an attractive program.

I like that each student was able to access their account and do their lessons on the iPad. As long as we had internet access, they were able to take their lessons with them.

I liked the incredibly fast response time of their help desk. I emailed the company quite a bit actually and I was very impressed with how quickly they responded every time.

The kindness of the staff. Every correspondence was patient and kind. They are eager to work with you.

I like that students can email me from any point in the lessons to let me know about any questions or problems they ran across in the material.

Things I didn't like:
SDA is a little less user-friendly than other online programs we've used, so it took a bit of a learning curve for me to get us set up. I accidentally set up two classes that I didn't want and was stuck with them in my teacher's page for a while.  The "archive" feature designed to remove such things didn't work for a long while, but they have since fixed it. 

While grading their work, I found that some assignments didn't show up as completed, even though I watched them do the work. We attempted to print them, but the print feature nearly always just prints a blank page. One son retook a quiz several times, but each time he submitted it, the multiple choice answers suddenly changed on the page! Eventually, he was able to submit it and it "stuck", keeping the answers the same way he submitted them. 

We ran into an important discrepancy in the AP Govt. class. The video and transcript in the first section about how the AP Test works, both said that there is 1 point added for right answers and zero points deducted for wrong answers. The answers to the test show videos to help you review wrong answers. My boys got two questions wrong based on the information provided in the video and transcript. Clicking on the Review video, a different answer is given, which states there is 1/4 point deducted for wrong answers. I emailed the company and they fixed the video for future students. However, my boys' test score was not fixed. There is no improving your score once answers are submitted. Since so few questions are asked, it is easy to bring down your average. 

When the video above says you can view the red flags, that is unfortunately all you can do: view the red flags. You cannot click on a link to see which particular questions they had trouble understanding. They cannot finish the diagrams until all of the boxes are in the right place, so viewing their finished work gives no indication of which boxes they had trouble with. You are simply aware that something in that lesson was a challenge to them.

The glitches were frustrating. It happened several times, with different students, but one example is that my daughter attempted to take a Post-Test for Chapter 1 in Arithmetic. It told her she couldn't take the test until she had completed the quiz. She DID complete the quizzes. There were no unfinished assignments, no indication of what it wanted us to do. She was stuck. We dropped that class.

We did assignments multiple times because the program erased their answers, losing quite a bit of time to redo completed, but lost, work. We attempted the lessons on desktops, laptops, and iPads. We tried it in Chrome and Safari, using high-speed internet. There was no reason for the glitches on our end.

Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

Homeschoolers can purchase the course for use by one student for $99 for a year, or $24.95 per month. AP courses are available for one student for $14.95 per month.
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As we've studied the catechism with our children, this phrase is what I keep taking from it. We've learned that man's primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We've learned about the Bible as our source of truth and how it teaches us how to live it.

Months of catechism and I'm still gleaning from that first lesson. I was created to glorify Him. He wants me to enjoy Him forever. My enjoyment is very much part of the package, but His desire is for my enjoyment to be fulfilled IN HIM.

As various scenarios pop up in my life, moments of, "But, hey! What about me?" I keep hearing that little whisper: It's not about you. Gently said, but the gist of it is really: Get over yourself.

I notice it in the lives of friends now, how this perspective of our feelings being a priority gets in the way of our relationships, our lives, our ability to glorify God.

I don't think we should be doormats, but I do think we should stop and remind ourselves: It's not about me. It's about God. How can God be glorified in my life right now? It is incredible how quickly this diffuses situations, how peaceful life gets when we ask ourselves this question.

It is incredible how my feelings can instantly change when I have that little talk with myself. Moments ago, I was tempted to feel indignation, and suddenly, I'm alert to God's sovereignty and open to where He wants to lead.

It's not about you.

It's about Him.

Words of wisdom from Xenophon

Xenophon was a Greek soldier and writer who has handed down a few gems worth mentioning. This one in particular is resonating with me this week:

The true test of a leader is whether his followers will adhere to his cause from their own volition, enduring the most arduous hardships without being forced to do so, and remaining steadfast in the moments of greatest peril.

It's challenging me to think long and hard on my parenting goals. I have a junior in high school. He is preparing to leave the nest and I want peace and assurance that he is ready to walk out beyond the wild wood with his head high and his footing sure.

He is a great guy and shows no hint of disrespect or disagreement with our family's values. But will they be his values? They are right now, and I have no doubt that he firmly believes that to be true, but will they be his when trials come? When temptations come? When there is no parent beside him to to force him to make healthy decisions? As a parent, how can we know?

This is where another Xenophon quote comes in:

Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.

I have learned the tricks to getting them to comply with moral guidelines. My children know how to live "good" lives. It is easy to get comfortable and rest on those familiar tactics, nudging them into line, maintaining the clearly understood expectations for their behaviour. Good behaviour and moral living are not my goals. My goal is to have their hearts captured by Grace.

When relying on behaviour modification parenting techniques, it's easy to overlook what their heart is saying underneath it all. They obey with their words and even their tone, but where are their hearts?

My goal is their heart. Accuracy is everything. How is my aim?

October's YRH

I'm featured today at Year Round Homeschooling. Come take a peek as I share about the letters my kids have been writing back and forth with me, learning writing skills without even knowing it! 


They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength....

I've been around enough now to know that these seasons come and go. I've learned that kicking against the goad doesn't hurry the season along at all. If anything, it slows things down so that I can learn my lesson. Resistance is futile. I might as well ride it out.

God has always come through. He has never let me down. And yet, knowing all of this inside out, my heart still hurts. He knows my prayers and yet I don't see His hand moving. I pray for an increase and daily I see decrease. I seek comfort; I feel abandoned. I KNOW that I am not alone. I KNOW that He is going to end this season with His beautiful flourish. But I feel desperation.

My circumstances are currently a weight. His command is to wait.



 adjective \və-ˈvā-shəs also vī-\
: happy and lively in a way that is attractive
Synonym: My daughter, Honor.

Every child has a unique personality. Honor's uniqueness is striking to us because she is so unlike anyone else in the family. She was raised with us in our simple ways and our crude humor, and yet she independently developed her own sense of propriety and modesty, of daintiness and femininity. These she pairs with her flamboyant personality to display a vivaciousness that amazes us anew each day.

Synonyms for Vivacious include:
livelyspiritedbubblyebullientbuoyantsparklinglightheartedjaunty,merryhappyjollyfull of fun, cheerycheerfulperkysunnybreezy,enthusiasticirrepressiblevibrantvitalzestful, energeticeffervescent,dynamic;livelyspiritedbubblyebullientbuoyantsparklinglightheartedjaunty,merryhappyjollyfull of fun, cheerycheerfulperkysunnybreezy,enthusiasticirrepressiblevibrantvitalzestful, energeticeffervescent,dynamic;

These all describe her well.

Recently, our scrawny bundle of happiness celebrated a birthday. She requested a Greek Goddess themed birthday. She loves ancient history and has been on a Greek myths kick for several months.

I was clueless on how to decorate until the day before her party when it dawned on me that we had skads of blue gauzy fabric in a storage building at church that could be the clouds of Mount Olympus. Wedding cake columns on top of blue cream cheese frosting made another Mount Olympus replica. I picked out a stack of paint chip samples (is that bad? I've never done that before) and cut them to sew up a quick pennant banner for the background. Their imaginations fueled the rest of the party.
They are trying to make "serious faces". 
The girls spent the weekend reading myths and playing pretend. There was a lot of pretend school going on, where the girls taught each other basic goddess knowledge. I threw in lots of "We all understand that this is for fun, right? There is only one true God and His name is not Zeus. We all get that, right?" while they threw in lots of "Yes, ma'am; we know."

I loved watching them play. I love watching Honor's freedom and confidence. She can be a bossy twit sometimes, but she means well. She has a blast and sometimes forgets to be sure everyone else is having fun. It's not that she doesn't care, it's that she is fairly confident she can persuade them to have fun doing it her way. And she's usually right. That vivacious personality is irresistible.