Tuesday, July 8, 2014

K5 Learning Review

K5 Learning gave us a free 6-week trial in exchange for a blog review. You can get a 14-day free trial, regardless of whether you do a review or not, by clicking below:

Online Reading & Math Program for K-5 

K5 Learning is an online program for children that focuses on Math, Spelling, and Reading. My eight-year-old (just finished up 2nd grade) and five-year-old (K) both spent some time doing exercises on the website.

I was pleased to notice that this website is an actual learning website. There are many website that claim to be educational, but they are really just addictive little games geared to getting your kids online as much as possible. I can't stand these type of websites. K5 Learning is actually about learning. You can't go ahead to the next thing unless you solve the problems or do the work.

My boys both liked the website, but because we do not spend a lot of time on screens, this program isn't a good fit for us.

You might consider beginning a free trial with K5 Learning if:

  • Your child already spends time online playing "learning" games, but they aren't really educational.
  • Your child could use a little extra help in Math, Reading, or Spelling.
  • Your child is in school or homeschooled in grade K-5.
A great thing about this website is it doesn't just go by grade level. Each child does an online assessment that will place your child in the correct levels for each category. I love this! I don't want my children to waste their time online and I do want them to be challenged, so the assessment is great!

Definitely head over to K5 Learning to see whether this useful website is a good tool for your family.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 2014 Garden Notes

I just came in from the garden (the yard). This morning, it's overcast and windy. We've done so much today already. We all went for a brisk walk this morning. The boys were on their bikes. Daddy helped the three-year-old, who is still a bit of a maniac when it comes to riding bikes. He has training wheels and is getting the hang of pedaling, but he still steers like he's a crazy!

After a breakfast break, I headed outside to do some pruning. Last night I researched how to prune hydrangeas (Endless Summer), boxwoods, yews, spirea, and lilacs. I will wait until fall for the lilacs and spirea, but everything else would live and even thrive, if I trimmed it now. All of these plants, except the hydrangeas, came with the house. They have obviously been neglected for a while.

I cut all the flowers off the hydrangeas. They were mostly spent anyways. I composted them and put a couple of good ones in a jar on the kitchen table. The Endless Summers do really well up here in Zone 4. Apparently, it's good to cut off the spent flowers, because it will help shape the bush and make more flowers next time it blooms. I already see a lot of new growth in there, so I'm glad I trimmed them. They looked a bit sunburned, or something. Not sure what the dark spots on the leaves signify. They get a ton of sun where they are...I'd say all day. I think they prefer a bit of shade, but I'm not going to move them. We'll just see how they do. I read they are very hardy, so I might as well put them to the test.

The yews are along the east side of the house. I trimmed the heck out of them. According to our trusty friend Google, they can handle it, especially this time of year. They are supposed to be hedges...but I don't want hedges there. I don't see the point of having a hedge along the house. I'd rather plant flowers or flowering bushes. The birds like the yews though, so I would never pull them out completely, but I'm not 100% sure what shape I should eventually trim them to be. For now, they are like this...a bit of a sloppy trim, but it's only until I figure out what shape I want them...and until I get a chainsaw. I've been using my pruners, the awesome Felcos, but the lower branches are thick. I may wait until next early spring, before they start growing again like crazy and prune them down even more. I would like them to be small oval or circular bushes, but we'll see.

The spirea are out front, just to the right of this yew (above) that is planted at the corner of the house. The spirea are doing awesome! A little bit of research on that plant and it sounds like it's pretty much indestructible...woohooo! You can either prune it just a bit, thin it out, or "stump" it, by cutting it back all by six inches or so in the fall. That's definitely what I'm doing! Once again, I want smaller bushes, so I have more space to plant other perennials. More flowers - less rocks.

The boxwoods are to the right of the spirea. One of them is not doing well at all. It got cold damaged and this is what it looks like after I cut away the dead branches. I'd love to dig this little guy up and put him in a pot and nurse him back to health..but one thing at a time. I don't think he gets enough sun there. His buddy, just slightly to the right, is doing much better. I trimmed him a bit too.

I'd rather have this (above) boxwood be shaped like a round ball, but I don't have the proper pruners for that, so I'll just have to wait. He's thin in the middle because the rain pelts down on him right there. Somebody skimped on the gutters when they built this house, if you ask me.

What is left? Well, I'll show you a few of our trees. A Parker Pear in the back and this is a Honeycrisp. He has three little apples on him. In the way back, against the house, you see the gigantic lilacs. I looked up proper pruning for them too, and in the fall I will thin them out (the wind is supposed to be able to go through them) and make them a bit shorter as well.

Here's our little compost bin and flower bed to the left of it. We planted sunflowers and some other flowers that I don't remember it'll be a surprise garden! The compost is doing awesome. I just turned all the soil and it's full of big, fat, earthworms. Occasionally a squirrel will hop in and make away with some avocado peels or something, but other than that, the critters haven't been a huge problem. I do have plants to slide some more boards in the front and add a lid, especially once winter comes.

I have another bed that is my experimental bed. It has a few daisies in it and the boys planted pumpkin seeds that are growing.

Almost every day I go out to the deck and try to figure out the best place for a vegetable garden. We'll need a fence for sure. The bunnies around here don't care about leaving my plants alone and I'm the only yard with out a dog, so I guess I have prime real estate, as far as the bunnies go. So far the hydrangeas are safe, but 2 of 3 of my peonies have been eaten to the ground. Caught the little fellow, whom we are calling Peter, in the act too. I sprinkled cayenne on the other peony and this morning he sniffed it and left it alone. Little stinker.

That's all for now! We are supposed to get rained on again today! It's super humid out, which is harder for me to get used to than the cold. I don't like being sticky, but I can't shower 3 times a day, so I guess I better get used to it. =)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Around the Garden

A little bunny ate two of my small peonies! =( At the suggestion of facebook friends, I've sprinkled my last one with cayenne pepper. I will also put a little fence around all three. I'm hoping they will grow again if they can stop being bunny breakfast.

There is also something digging in my flower boxes! It's making a very neat hole and digging up just one of the many impatiens. Twice already! It's like something is trying to get to the roots in the bottom of the box. It wasn't the kids! They'd be WAY messier and their fingernails would give them away. Haha.

Well, here's what around my house looks like these days. I love the terra cotta pot I keep on my front porch. My mother gave me the begonia in it. I overwinter it inside.

The spirea bushes are gigantic. We moved in late last July and I had never seen them bloom. I wasn't sure that they would where they were, but they are blooming! Yay!! In the fall, I'm cutting them back to all but six inches. They are way overgrown right now.

The solid green hostas are really boring to me, so I bought one that has white stripes. In the future, when it gets bigger, I can divide it and grow new little hostas and eventually I want to have alternating green and green & white hostas surrounding the trees.

This is the window box that is low to the ground, where the raccoon or something is trying to dig up my plants!

My hydrangeas out back aren't pretty anymore. Most of the flowers are either just past, got too much sun, or too much rain, or all three. =) I have to look up whether I can trim off the spent flowers. I think I can, but this is an Endless Summer variety, so I just want to make sure I don't mess it up. =)

Well, that's all for today's Nature Walk!

Enjoy your weekend! Baby will be baptized on Sunday. Yay!
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