Annika's 4th Birthday

Annika turned 4 on December 22nd!


Maisy, Max and Marco

We had our first, and most likely only, goat kids born this past Sunday.

Our Nubian doe, Ivey, gave birth to triplets! 2 bucklings and one doeling!

Unfortunately, Max, one of the little bucklings was born with white muscle disease. Most likely due to a selenium deficiency. He couldn't support his weight and his legs were spread out behind him.

We brought him in the house the first night since Ivey kept accidentally stepping on him. We gave him a shot of selenium and he is improving.

 But since he missed his first 24 hours with his family, Ivey has decided that he doesn't belong to her. I have been able to force her to feed him- but she will only allow it while she is busy eating. He will most likely end up a bottle baby.

But they are so adorable. The [human] kids are enjoying loving on them!

From L to R: Maisy (white), Max, and Marco.

The Big Snow: February 11-13, 2014

 Before last week the biggest snow the kids had ever seen was about 5-6 inches back when Annika was a newborn.

Monday we got a quick 3 inches- which was great for packing! They made lots of snowmen and snowballs!

And took a snow shower :)

In Tennessee we lived on a very level lot, so sledding was pretty much out. Here we are lucky to be surrounded by hills!

Everything started to melt, but started back up again on Wednesday, snowing throughout the day.

 And we woke up on Thursday to 10 inches! Which we all immediately went out to play in- after brushing off the goat and alpacas houses, both of which caved in somewhat with the weight of the snow.

The animals weren't quite so thrilled with the snow- the chickens stayed inside for the entire week. And the goats shivered in their barns. 


 Later in the afternoon, as the snow began to melt somewhat in the sun, we went out to make this huge snowman and a snowfort.

And the best thing about southern snow- a beautiful winter wonderland last Wednesday- and today we are out in sunny, nearly 70 degree weather!


Chicks, Fences, and Fun

 We got 25 new chicks- Buff Orpingtons, Black Austalorps, red stars, Rhode Island Reds, and a couple Blue-Laced Red Wyandottes.  We also thinned out out older birds- and sold 17 of them to a couple families in search of yard birds and pet.

This winter has been a series of warm and cold days. One day the kids were running around with no jackets- zooming down the pasture in a big Tonka truck....

And the next day- snow!

On the warm days we worked on fencing in the chickens. We kept losing birds to a fox, and we are adding about 300 strawberry plants this year and didn't want the chickens to eat them all!

Now the chickens are enclosed, seeds are started inside- and garden time is right around the corner!


{Review} Alpha-Phonics

Over the years I have tried quite a few products aimed at teaching your child how to read. From workbooks to computer games to hands-on learning products. I have made my own and I have used others. And when I look back over the years of teaching my kids how to read, I can see which products were used and forgotten and which were used over and over. And what I have learned, is that we prefer the simple and the plain when it comes to reading and phonics products. So when I was approached by the creators of Alpha-Phonics to try their product, I was ready to give it a try and see if it would work for my current struggling reader.

What is Alpha-Phonics?

 On the front cover of the Alpha-Phonics books states this well. It describes Alpha-Phonics as:

"An effective, setp-by-step, intensive phonics program for teaching reading to beginners of all ages. Designed for easy use by teachers, tutors, and parents"

And that is exactly what it is. The Alpha-Phonics primer is one book, with no frills, no pictures, no characters and no color. It reminds me very much of the old 1900 primers I used to use with my older kids when they were learning to read. The book is all inclusive- with lessons, teachers manual and pre-reading exercises all included in the same book.

Alpha-Phonics also sells optional resources to go along with the Alpha-Phonics textbook. These include Alpha-Phonics & How To Tutor Phonics Workbook and the Alpha-Phonics & How To Tutor Little Companion Readers. These can be used in conjunction with the textbook to enhance learning and solidify skills.

How We Used Alpha-Phonics

I am currently working with my 6 1/2 year old on learning to read. He has a base knowledge but was having a hard time picking up speed and moving forward. We were given a copy of the Alpha-Phonics textbook, the optional workbook and the companion readers. We started Alpha-Phonics at the beginning but proceeded quickly through the early lessons,  sometimes doing a few per sitting since they were review for him.

The textbook is set up so that the child learns something new- a letter sound, a blend, etc and practices reading words using that new item. Then the following lesson focuses on practicing reading sentences containing the new and previously learned sounds.

At this time I chose not to use the supplemental workbook, but we did use the Little Companion Readers. My son is very stubborn, to the point where I often don't know what his actual reading level is because half the time he refuse to try just because he wants to. We worked through one, or 2 lessons, per day together. Each week I gave him one of the companion readers to read silently to himself. Each of the kids have a required 30-60 min block of silent reading per day. He was to read the book to himself each day, coming to me if he got stuck. At the end of the week, or when he was ready, he would then read the book aloud to me. Doing it this way took his attitude out of the equation and having him read the book multiple times meant that he had a chance to pick up speed in his reading. Often by the time he read aloud he could read it at a normal rate and even add in some inflections.

The Bottom Line

I really enjoyed the Alpha-Phonics program and it's simplicity. I think my son's reading has improved in the past months that we have used it. I use it in conjunction with his previous language workbooks and our own collection of early readers. 

What I liked most:
  • As I have said a few times, simple is so much better for me and this is as simple and no-frills as you can get. 
  • I like that it is for any age- even adults can learn to read with this program without fear that it is too "kiddie".
  • The price is very reasonable  for a curriculum that can be used on any age, over and over again. 
  • It works. My struggling reader picked up speed and confidence. He fought against it less and learned more.
What I struggled with.....well I am not sure I have anything I can list here. But if you enjoy a more flashy program or if you need a script of what to say, Alpha-Phonics probably isn't for you.  If your kids want and thrive on the busyness of a character-covered page, you probably should skip this one. But if you want a reasonably priced curriculum that will do what it promises, I don't think you will be disappointed with Alpha-Phonics.


For More Information:

If you head over to the Alpha-Phonics website you will find videos and talks from the creator as well as videos from parents using Alpha-Phonics. You will find links on how to purchase as well as information on the entire line of products. 

You can watch one of these videos below:

 If you give Alpha-Phonics a try, let me know if you like it as much as I did!