Tag Archives: Review

Miller and Levine Biology

Note: Hi! If you’re trying to determine if Miller and Levine Biology would be a good fit for your use, I hope that you’ll find this post helpful! Happy educating! In case you are just dropping in, I have a medical degree and before that, a pharmacy degree, so I’ve had a little science. I love homeschooling my own four children.

We completed one semester of good, solid biology this 8th grade year with my oldest student,  and we ended up covering the first 4 units of Miller and Levine’s Biology curriculum from Pearson. I chose Miller and Levine’s Biology (Macaw edition) because it is comprehensive, frequently used for high school biology courses (including AP Biology), and includes supporting consumable materials (labs, worksheets, and tests). While I can say many fine things about this curriculum, I can also say I have reservations.

Materials We Used

This curriculum has two intensity levels to choose from, A and B, but they both use the same textbook. The A curriculum material writes and asks questions from a more complex and higher reading level than the B curriculum. More depth and comprehension is expected from those who use the A curriculum. You do not need both. I wasn’t sure which I would need, so I ordered both.

  • Miller and Levine Biology textbook
  • Study Workbook A or Study Workbook B
  • Study Workbook A Teacher Edition or Study Workbook B Teacher Edition
  • Lab Manual A or Lab Manual B
  • Lab Manual A Teacher Edition or Lab Manual B Teacher Edition
  • Teacher’s Edition Assessment Resources (includes quizzes and tests and their answers for both A and B levels)
  • High grade microscope
  • Lab materials (beakers, flasks, test tubes, pop beads, planaria, etc.) ordered from various sources on-line based on resource list in the lab manual.


We progressed through the spine textbook mostly in the order the authors’ presented the material, taking it at the needed pace. If concepts needed more explanation and practice, like cellular respiration, I would lecture on the chalkboard or print off extra worksheets from the internet. We spent as much time as needed for mastery. We used the accompanying worksheets for each section, mostly from Workbook A, but sometimes I would use Workbook B if something wasn’t clicking or if I liked its simplification better.

Most importantly, we taught the process of outlining a chapter/taking notes, identifying important points, and drawing one’s own charts and pictures to help in comprehension and retention. This was required for particular topics that I know will be extensively tested in any future biology class, such as cellular respiration, meiosis, mitosis, and DNA replication.

If you take your time reading, learning, doing labs, reading the interesting supplemental materials, and taking tests and quizzes, then there is way more here than you could cover in a year of biology, while still doing other school courses at the same level. We did as much as we could in one semester (about 4 units, but we were not as diligent on the lab work as I would have liked), but we’ll take next year to knock out what I think will make my student exceptionally prepared for college AND keep her interested in learning for the fun of it!

Pros of the Curriculum

  • Comprehensive and appropriately detailed coverage of general biology for a student who may pursue a science-based college degree
  • Excellent concise and pertinent outlines for each chapter section included in the workbook manuals
  • Excellent worksheets
  • Excellent lab manual
  • Tests and quizzes available for purchase
  • Two levels for different levels of learning intensity
  • Contains sections called “Careers and Biology” to show students all the fun career options available with a biology background, which I think is very helpful for students to know about
  • More here than you could ever dream of covering well (you’ll see this listed as a pro and con): basic biology, careers in biology, controversies in science, mini-labs, labs, cool mysteries in science
  • The chapter reviews at the end of each chapter are very good, focused, and pertinent

Cons of the Curriculum

  • Sometimes, the writing and format (graphic design) do not make major biological concepts clear from more minor concepts, making it difficult sometimes for a new biology learner to tease out the most important points from the reading material. The book reads and displays sometimes like it’s “ALL” important. However, the worksheets do a good job highlighting the most important points.
  • The textbook is chock-full, and the pages, as many textbooks now, are super “Dora-the-Explorer” busy, making it difficult to stay focused. It’s nice to have the career excerpts, history excerpts, controversies, quick labs, and mystery case reports, but it can also be very distracting. There are so many different highlights packed in the margins and throughout the chapters that they’re hard to keep straight, and they detract from investigating the photos and tables of the main material that is required to be learned.
  • I often wrote my own tests. I used many of the test questions from the publisher (and eliminated ones I thought were poorly worded or minutiae), and then added my own questions. Why? Because I didn’t feel like important concepts were given heavier weight on the tests than fluffier, “less needed” material. I wanted important topics that I knew would be studied extensively in college to receive more in-depth testing than “less” important topics.
  • Not catered to homeschoolers so no accompanying internet resource and had to search around to find all the written resources. (I stumbled across a web page somewhere in which a person described how they were able to get access to the internet links that mass purchasers get for their students. So it’s out there somewhere, FYI, but I lost the web page. I didn’t need to pursue the internet support and resources.)
  • Complete, thorough, clearly visible vocabulary lists are needed. Each chapter section has a few vocabulary words listed at the beginning in the side margin, but it is not a complete list of the new words and terms introduced in each chapter section. One of the most difficult obstacles for students in biology is all the new terminology. It would be more effective if all of the new terms were listed clearly together.
  • Focuses on controversy

The Use of Controversy

My biggest reservation regarding this biology curriculum is its huge focus on controversy. (Maybe Joe Levine’s journalism background contributes to this.) Regarding the Miller and Levine Biology text, Pearson (the publisher) states on its teacher training site, called my Pearson Training:

“Using controversial topics in biology instruction grabs students’ attention and shows them that biology is relevant to their lives. When studying controversial topics, the goal is to help students gather scientific data, gain a scientific perspective, and evaluate media coverage.”

And elsewhere in material from the afore mentioned site:

“When looking at the Miller & Levine textbook, it is easy to see that many topics come directly from today’s headlines.”

It’s sensationalized biology. But our American society is so polarized, I’m not sure that building a biology text which screams the word “controversy” over and over is a good thing. Which side of a controversy should be taken? As thoughtful as the book seems to be, bias sometimes seeps into word choices. It seeps into the controversies chosen to discuss. It seeps into the controversies that were minimized.  The writing seems like it tries to offer opposing view points on controversial ideas, but sometimes the wording and arrangement is just subtle enough to indicate an eagerness to have the reader choose one side over another.

For example, before the ethical issues of stem cells are discussed, the benefits and needs are discussed.

“Basic research on stem cells takes on a special urgency. . . Given the suffering and death caused by these conditions [heart attacks, strokes, paralysis]. . . Many hope to see a day when damage caused by a severe heart attack can be reversed. . . “

After exuding enthusiasm about the benefits that stem cells can offer, the ethical issues are discussed, and it is stated that harvesting stem cells causes “destruction” of an “embryo.” (All true.) It’s subtle, but notice it does not cause “death” of something alive, just destruction of an embryo. Whereas as you keep reading in the next line or two, harvesting and using stem cells can “save human lives.” Minor wording choices can affect which side of a controversy we’re on.

Most of the controversial topics are clearly marked with the word “controversy” or “ethical issues” and the book makes a concerted effort to present well-rounded discussion. But some of the controversies of our time, such as global warming and evolution are treated as if there is no controversy, which I think perpetuates the distrust from opposing viewpoints even more.

I understand that the authors and other scientists are sick and tired of all the criticism and hate they receive from people who don’t believe these ideas. BUT the fact of the matter is, these ARE still controversial topics in 2018 and it would be more productive to list the factual reasons or cite the research which causes other people to be skeptical about evolution and global warming, fostering respect rather than scorn. It would be productive to provide the evidence which makes a significant number of people have questions about evolution from the fossil records or have questions about the role and significance of humanity on global warming–and allowed for uncertainty where uncertainty exists.

Politically, those instrumental in putting Miller and Levine Biology together understand how lucky they are to put together a textbook for the captive, young audience mandated to learn biology. They urge:

“Don’t just memorize today’s scientific facts and ideas. And please don’t believe them! Instead, try to understand how scientists developed those ideas. . . In our society, scientists make recommendations about big public policy decisions, but they don’t make the decisions. Who makes the decisions? Citizens of our democracy do. In a few years, you will be able to exercise the rights of a voting citizen, influencing public policy by the ballots you cast and the messages you send public officials. That’s why it is important that you understand how science works and appreciate both the power and the limitations of science.”

They urge kids to think for themselves, yet their textbook has subtly worded stances (intentional or not) and makes an unstated point to root out disbelievers of points they consider moot discussions.

There is so much information to cover and learn in basic science classes, that instruction woven around controversy belongs in other classes. I teach science for my homeschool co-op, and we keep plenty busy just mastering what nucleotide bases are and have enough controversy discussing how exons could affect translation of our DNA. Now THAT’S science!

A Note on Evolution

You can’t get away from evolution in this book. The authors have made it the entire theme of the book. It is woven throughout the chapters, starting right front and center in chapter one. Right away the book states:

“Today, evolutionary theory is the central organizing principle of all biological and biomedical science. It makes such a wide range of predictions about organisms–from bacteria to whales to humans–that it is mentioned throughout this book.”

But the writers go on to say:

“A useful theory that has been thoroughly tested and supported by many lines of evidence may become the dominant view among the majority of scientists, but no theory is considered absolute truth.”

If you want a gentle approach to evolution, this is not the book for that. Whammo. Bammo. Evolution. Controversy and evolution are the themes woven throughout this book. But, I don’t mean to sound too negative, there is TONS in this book to be taught no matter what you believe about evolution. I still don’t know what in the heck to believe about elements in a primordial environment coalescing into one little organism and then eventually forming me! The simpleton faith in me just says, “Wow. God, just wow.”


The Miller and Levine Biology program is not a bad choice, per se, because it does a good job including everything a student can expect to see in a college biology course. Many high schools use it. I like that my kids are learning what the rest of the United States’ kids learn scientifically because that’s who they’ll be working side-by-side with for the rest of their lives. I like the resources that come along with the text.

But I don’t like the controversy used as its educational tool. I don’t like the cloud that hovers over me as I read the book, feeling like particular ideas are being indoctrinated into a population. I also wish the authors did a better job at making important topics seem important and at putting together vocabulary lists.

For the 2018-2019 school year, our plan is to finish the topics covered in the Miller and Levine book, add in a couple of other texts to help my student read complicated material as explained by other writers (when I feel like Miller and Levine is weak or confusing), review the topics I know will be hit hard in college science classes, focus more diligently on completing labs, and use some “living books.”

I have ordered two additional texts to use:  Campbell’s Biology and Test Prep Series: Preparing for the Biology AP Exam (also by Pearson). For now, I just intend for them strengthen our program and round it out, not replace it.

The Test Prep Series: Preparing for the Biology AP Exam is reported to make the main points of biology very clear and concise, leaving no question about what must be known in each topic of biology. At this time, I do not plan on AP tests, but I must research more on that. I feel like everyone is saying, “Take AP. Take AP.” And, well, I’m just not sure this is the way our education system should be going, so I need to read more and decide.

That’s it! Feel free to ask any questions. I’ll try to help if I can. If you see any typos, let me know so I can fix them. If you have any concerns or counter comments, I’ll try to field them with the best thought that I can. Thank you.

Terri F


Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Grammar

I think this is the third year we have used the Easy Grammar System.  It’s about as dry as I am on a Sunday.  The black and white print stares at you like a gray, winter day.  Cut and dry like my grilled steak.  But, we all appreciate Easy Grammar’s conciseness, including my kids.  (My second daughter, in third grade, also uses the Easy Grammar System.)

It takes no prep work or reading ahead on my part.  Hallelujah.  Just turn the page and go.  Grammar takes about a mere 20 minutes a day, and we do it somewhere between three and four times each week, on average.

Many school subjects in our curriculum do not start and end with the traditional school schedule.  For example, math we are about 3/4 of the way through our book.  Spelling we just moved up to a new book.  And writing we are still at the beginning of a book.  I do not march my books and student assignments out at the beginning of the year, but I always periodically take measure of where we are at, what we are doing, and where we need to regroup.  In grammar, we pretty much follow a traditional year.

Grammar Choices

We use two texts from the same author, Wanda Phillips, for our grammar curriculum:

Easy Grammar: Grade 5 (teacher’s edition)

Daily Grams:  Grade 5 (teacher’s edition)

I will describe my take on them and how we use them below.  Please notice the student’s preference for gluten-free bread.  Too bad all curriculums (curricula) seem to like to make use of references to food.

Easy Grammar: Grade 5

2015-05-13 08.21.06 (1)

Easy Grammar: Grade 5 is the more traditional manual.  It succinctly explains grammatical concepts and then follows each concept with worksheets dedicated to that specific topic.  At the end of each unit are four “tests” you can use:  a practice unit review, a “real” unit test, a cumulative practice review, and a cumulative “real” test.  I do not all of these tests/reviews.  I pick and choose.  Sometimes we do the unit test.  Sometimes we do the cumulative test.  Sometimes we do both.  Generally, we do 3-4 pages of the manual’s worksheets a day, and we finish early in the school year (about 3/4 of the way through a traditional year).  After we finish this grammar book, we try to focus on writing more.

Please, it is important to note that there is a teacher’s manual and a student manual.  I buy the teacher’s manual for my daughter to use.  It is actually the teacher’s manual on the left side of the book and the student manual on the right.  The pages mirror each other–except the teacher’s side has a few extra teaching pointers and the worksheets have the answers filled in.  Make sense?  The answers to the student’s worksheets on the right side of the book are posted glaringly there on the left teacher’s side for the student to look at if they wish.  Obviously for some students, this just won’t work!  For some, it is no problem.  If it is problematic, you can buy the Easy Grammar Grade 5: Student Workbook for the student AND Easy Grammar: Grade 5 Teacher Edition to check their work and get teaching pointers.  Or, you can buy the teacher manual and make copies of all of the student worksheets and tests you want from the teacher’s manual.  However, if you hang your kids from the ceiling by their ears like I do for “cheating,” then maybe you can do what I do and just use the teacher’s manual.

Daily Grams: Grade 5

2015-05-13 08.23.41

Daily Grams:  Grade 5 is a workbook with 180 worksheets which build in a cumulative fashion.  It goes along with what is taught in the manual I discussed above.  Each worksheet has about 5-6 questions, and literally only takes five minutes (tops) to complete.  I like that one of the questions always requires the students to put together complex sentences.  I buy the Daily Grams:  Grade 5 Teacher Text, and this nicely places the answers at the end of the book (not like the main textbook I discussed first).  The Daily Grams Student Workbook does not come with answers.  Nine times out of ten I don’t need them, but it is getting to where I sometimes do!

If I happened to be really good at grammar, I could get by with just the Daily Grams and not even use the manual I first mentioned which teaches topics.  I could just teach the topics as they are encountered in the cumulative Daily Grams myself.  I be not that good.  So I buy the Easy Grammar text book with the answers AND the Daily Grams with the answers.

We do one or two Daily Grams pages each day we do grammar.  Sometimes I will pick and choose the questions they do, so they are not wasting time on material they know very well already.  We will finish the Daily Grams book on the traditional school year, but it takes us longer than the manual I first mentioned (Easy Grammar:  Grade 5).

One last thing I incorporate into Daily Grams is having them write the required sentence formation question in cursive.  That way they are frequently practicing cursive handwriting.


That’s it!  That’s our grammar!  Nobody paid for this review.  And I get no kick-backs.  It’s a sound grammar curriculum, but not pretty or exciting.  We will stick with it because I like its conciseness, thoroughness, and I really like Daily Grams.  I also like that I’m not needed too much.  In general, I’m not a good curriculum shopper, and this is working well for us.  If it’s not broke, I don’t look to fix it.  The enemy of good is better.  I feel like my kids will have a great grasp of grammar with The Easy Grammar System.

How about you?  Do you do formal grammar?  How’d you pick your text?  Does grammar take all year?  Do you do it every day?  Are you good at it?  Did you like it when you were a kids?


Grandma’s Osterizer and How to Clean It

Osterizer and the Best Way to Clean a Blender

Regarding Second-Hand Appliances

I figure if an appliance has made it to the second-hand vintage store, that means it’s probably not gonna’ break down on you.  It’s proved itself too hardy to be broken, even when thrown carelessly in the back hatch along with other garage-sale toss-offs.  However, you can pretty much count on your brand spankin’ new appliance breaking on a Friday night about 2 days before the warranty expires.  Not happened to you yet?  Just keep buyin’.  It will.  It has me countless times.  I’m a magnet.

She’s a 1960s Beaut!

I have a lovely pea-green Osterizer blender in my kitchen.  It is a favorite in our home.  How did this 40+ (FORTY PLUS) year- old appliance end up in our home?  Well, when my husband and I were both medical residents back in 2004, we decided to branch into this parenthood thing and delightfully earned ourselves a baby nicknamed “The Screamer” by her sitter.  I would get up at 4:30 in the morning to deliver our screaming baby to the arranged childcare situation.  Sometimes, if my husband and I were both on call, she’d be gone for three days.  This child care arrangement wasn’t ideal for many reasons, including that I nursed her (until she was 18 months), and I was chained to the iron pump when she wasn’t around.  So it was decided that my retired mother-in-law would come to live with us to spoil “The Screamer.”  When it came time for introducing food to our screaming baby, my mother-in-law went back to her house and came back with her ugly Osterizer to make baby food.  Boy did I think that thing was hideous!  I mean, come on!  It does not match my kitchen!  However, it has moved along with us ever since, although Grandma ditched us to go back to her own house.  This once-percieved-as-ugly appliance has become a shining star in my eyes.  (Tears, please.)

I have a love affair with “my” Osterizer.  I’ve given away the two blenders given to us as wedding gifts.  When my father-in-law comes, he checks it out for me and orders any necessary gaskets or blades for virtually the cost of shipping and handling.  Then, she runs like new.  Never a problem with her motor.

My sister saw it summarized best somewhere on the internet:  “Vitamix?  Ninja?  No way.  Give me an old Osterizer.”  IF this puppy’s motor ever goes, I’ll be getting on e-Bay and getting another.  It does great for all the challenges I give it.  I’ve never had a Vitamix, so I guess it’s not fair to say it’s better.  But it’s pretty darn good at only a fraction of the cost.  And eats ice like its warm butter.

A Blender Cleaning Tip

And lastly, my sister also saw somewhere how to best clean a blender–you know, way down in the sharp blade part where you darest not go–and it was such a simple, fantastic tip that I wanted to pass it on!  Just fill ‘er up with some water and turn ‘er on!  (Translation just in case:  Fill it up with some water and turn it on.)  So I’ve taken to rinsing out the blender in the sink and then getting the blade clean with her warm water and blend technique.  If I do this, it gets the green smoothie grime out pretty well!

May you have a glowing week!  Let me know–do you have a favorite old appliance that just won’t go away?  I may be in the market for it!


Splitting Apart in Pregnancy: Diastasis recti

Today marks my entry into 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Likely, at least three more weeks to go as my body’s smooth muscle doesn’tPregnant belly in black and white seem to appreciate moving spontaneously, and I don’t have a pattern of early births.  (Sigh.)  Yeah, the last month of pregnancy hurts, but I try to savor the appreciation of how my family and life is right now, knowing that although it will be better, it will never be the same again.  This week I am hoping to push out several personal posts on pregnancy because once this pregnancy is over, I plan to not be lookin’ back.  Severe joint pain, nausea, headaches, moodiness, exhaustion, and constipation are not my cuppa’ tea.  However, definitely before I leave this golden field behind and while it is still fresh in my mind, I want to write a post on diastasis recti in case anyone else out there is dealing with this.

What is this strange pain?

I had heard of and seen things like round ligament pain, symphysis pubis pain, sacroiliac joint pain, acid reflux pain, and so on in training.  But early in the third trimester of my first pregnancy, I developed a very strange stretching, burning, pulling type of pain in the midline of my abdomen.  I knew from experience it wasn’t something serious–nothing coming from my internal organs.  But, dang!  It was uncomfortable!  I felt like my midline was literally being torn apart!  I asked my girlfriends who had been pregnant about it.  Nothing.  I asked my OB about it.  Nothing.  Just one more lovely thing about pregnancy to add to the tally!  And it was uncomfortable!

Post-delivery of Baby One

After pregnancy, I noticed when I’d sit up in bed, my midline abdomen would bulge out like one of those old-fashioned water bottles!  My husband, being the musculoskeletal expert in our family, said, “Hey!  You have a diastasis recti!”  My OB confirmed that’s what I had and felt it would improve with time.  It didn’t.  Okay.  It did improve some.  But I could still shove a ball somewhere between the size of a golf and tennis ball where my belly button used to be.  Beautiful.  Simply beautiful.  The battle ground of my belly.  I will never see the belly button of my childhood days again.

What is diastasis recti?

Think of a bodybuilder with the perfect six-pack (the six-pack muscle is made of several parts and is scientifically called the rectus abdominus muscle) .  The line dividing the six-pack right in half down the middle, placing 3 “soda pops” on either side, is called the linea alba (the “white line”).  Smack dab there in the middle from the top to the bottom of your midline, where your belly button lives, there is no muscle.  All that is there is a strong layer of connective tissue between the two halves of muscle, the linea alba.


When that strong layer of connective tissue becomes stretched wider and thinner than it ought to be, it is called a diastasis recti.  This can frequently occur in pregnancy with all the stretching due to size and hormonal changes that occur to loosen up our tendons and ligaments to allow our bodies to accommodate and deliver the baby.  It makes good sense for that sheath to be able to stretch out during pregnancy!  Unfortunately, in some women, the diastasis is quite large and doesn’t ever return to normal (or even close to normal).  These women have “mummy tummy,” distorted belly buttons, billowing out of the abdominal contents with abdominal wall contraction or gravity, and problems with core body strength!  If women don’t know about this condition, they may wonder why in the world their abdomens don’t shrink no matter how “skinny” they get!

I know for me, I was left with a large crater for a belly button, lots of extra skin right around the belly button, stretch marks only around the belly button, and a large ballooning out of the midline with trying to sit up.  On bad diastasis days, I get the “Mommy, you look pregnant” remark.  (That is–before I WAS pregnant!  In pregnancy, with a diastasis recti, you seem to really “pop” big in the first trimester and always look further advanced than you really are.  Another sigh.  How many times do you have to listen to the “Man!  You are big!” remark?)

My Subsequent Pregnancies and Discovery of an Umbilical Hernia

I didn’t really get any more of that horrible stretching sensation where it felt like I was splitting apart with Baby 2 or Baby 3.  I guess I was as split as I could be.  Shortly after Baby 3, I developed a kidney stone, requiring an abdominal CT scan.  The scan, aside from the kidney stones, showed that I also had an umbilical hernia–an actual hole in the linea alba right there at the belly button.  After a visit to my general surgeon for consultation, it was decided that the hernia was large enough that it would not “strangulate” any bowel.  With an umbilical hernia, sometimes loops of intestine can squeeze through the hole and get their blood circulation cut off.  The intestinal tissue strangulates and dies, leading to an exceptional emergency situation.  My hernia was big enough to let my intestine slip in and out unimpeded.  Yippee.

I carried on.  For me, it was a cosmetic issue only.  No bikinis or half-tanks.  Carefully chose apparel.  It never interfered in my ability to exercise and work-out.  I didn’t do traditional sit ups.  I wore Spanx if I had to for special occasions.  No biggie for me.  (I know other women have different stories to tell.)

Don’t Touch My Midline…

Then, I became pregnant again with Baby 4.  Ooh-la-la.  Ouch.  At about 13 weeks, when horrible bloating hit, my midline felt that horrible stretching sensation again.  Kind of like someone taking your ankle or shoulder and contorting the ligaments and tendons in positions they aren’t meant to go.  And it hurt and has only let up here and there throughout the pregnancy.  Coughing, bloating, laughing, trying to get off the couch or bed, and sometimes just sitting are painful events.  Pain like my kidney stone?  No.  But painful still.  And PLEASE don’t touch my belly in the midline!  The sides, where I still have good tissue support–fine, touch and push like the dickens.  But please not the midline!  Another wonderful blessing of a diastasis recti is the visibility of the uterus and baby parts right there seemingly under your skin!  Like it’s going to fall out of there or something!

The Belt

Baby Belly BandTo help with the pain, I invested in a belt after researching a bit on-line.  The belt helps.  Not completely.  I don’t wear it all the time because I don’t want to lose the core abdominal strength that I do have.  But when I feel the tearing pain increasing, I put it on and it kind of lifts up my belly, taking pressure off of the damaged linea alba.  Sometimes I wear it at night after a bad day.  Sometimes I wear it on a long walk.  If I’m having bad bloating, which also hurts it, I will wear the belt, too.  It comes with extra attachments.  (Doesn’t that sound so funny!?  Attachments.)  I have the “suspenders” and the “extra cinch” piece.  Here in the last 6 weeks I have just started needing to occasionally use the suspenders and extra cinch.  Before this point, simply the belt seemed like enough, as it is adjustable and has grown with me.  The belt is soft, but my pregnancy belly is itchy no matter what so I always wear the belt over a cami or undershirt.  A last point on the belt:  I have found that it helps my sacroiliac joint pain also.  Again, it doesn’t remove all the pain, but it really does reduce it.  I have never had another belt to try, so this is the only one I can vouch for.  To me, it has been worth it.  The belt I purchased was Baby Belly Band.  This is NOT a thin, stretchy type band to use for aesthetics or mild support.  I have those, too, and they are not the same deal.

Precautions I take

Although I’m an independent cuss, this pregnancy, with that ripping sensation resurfacing (at least in my mind telling me that my hernia is probably enlarging), I have turned over most all lifting so as to not make matters worse.  Makes me so mad to have to have others lift my water jugs.  To lift me up.  To move the furniture around.  To lift my sick 5-year-old.  But I know that is best and probably should have been standard with Baby 1!  I remember being in fine nesting mode with Baby 1, moving the couch here and there and snowblowing after a blizzard in the last trimester.  If this is you, stop it now!  🙂

I try to not use my abdominals to get up off the couch, bed or floor (when I make it down there).  I either wait for help up or use every ounce of arm strength to push myself up to some position where I can use my legs.  In addition to asking for help with pretty much all that requires abdominal use, I’ve rigged up a rope system to use to help me pull myself up out of bed at night for the standard 5 trips to the bathroom.  (I hide it when the cleaning lady comes.  Who knows what she might think that’s for!  As if!  LOL!)

Is there a way to fix it?

As this is a personal post, speaking off the top of my head, I’m not going to go into much detail.  There are surgical procedures that can be done.  The technique offered will differ based on many factors, including whether or not you have a hernia and even what kind of surgeon you seek out to do your procedure.  Many insurances will not cover this unless you are having some medical issues related to the diastasis/hernia.  Also, many doctors don’t recommend fixing them unless you are done with pregnancies.  So if I HAD had my diastasis/hernia repaired, the result could have been compromised by my current pregnancy.

Alternatively, there are physical therapy programs out there which try to address the diastasis.  There are a few of them which I’ve read about.  Some people report good success and some don’t.  (Imagine that.)

There are binders out there.  This is not a fix, but I know that my diastasis is hugely apparent during the months after delivery.  At this time, I do often wear a binder to “hold it all in.”  It doesn’t work permanently for me, and again, I like to make sure I’m never putting my own core abdominal strength in peril due to a binder, but it does “bring it all in” temporarily for me.  This is different from the belt/band I describe above.  It is much wider to wrap around your entire midline section–or at least much of it.


So if you have this splitting feeling in your midline with pregnancy which you’ve discussed with your doctor to rule out the “bad stuff,” maybe check out the term diastasis recti on a computer search.  Or, if after reading this you think, “Yeah!  That’s me!  I have a diastasis recti still!”  Search.  You’ll find a lot more than I’ve got summarized here.  This post was not for diagnosis or treatment.  It was a sharing of my story to heighten awareness.  Wishing you joy in parenthood and life.


Our Fourth Grade Homeschool Curriculum: Grammar and Writing

Today is a homeschooling post.  I love homeschooling.  It is the tops.  I’m not very patient, and homeschooling elementary school has been challenging for me.  Crafts and finger plays not appealing.  Teaching handwriting like pulling teeth.  “Whatdya’ mean you don’t remember what a contraction is?”  I’ve decided that you don’t have to have patience to homeschool, but if you don’t, you’d better have some self-control/self-discipline.

Fourth grade, however, is turning into fun because the topics are becoming more advanced and the student more independently capable.  But no matter what, the whole homeschooling ride is one I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Up now–grammar and writing.  Last homeschooling post was math.

Easy Grammar:  Grade 4

Love Easy Grammar by Wanda Phillips, PhD!  We have used it for three years in a row now.  Simple, straightforward presentation of grammar without any fluff, just the nuts and bolts and good stuff.  I thought figuring out what to order was a bit confusing!  Daily Grams?  Workbooks?  Teacher editions?  Test booklets?  What?  Here’s what I ordered and I’ve been exceptionally pleased:

  • Daily Grams  The daily grams are one page, cumulative worksheets, reminding me of the cumulative concept of Saxon Math.  Capitalization, punctuation, Easy Grammar Textadverbs, adjectives, prepositions, objects of the preposition, complex sentence formation, and more–they are all reviewed throughout the year so the student doesn’t forget the concept even if they learned it on day 1.  Daily Grams are designed to do one worksheet a day, requiring maybe five minutes or so.  For second grade, I used ONLY the second grade Daily Gram book for the entire grammar course that year.  When third and fourth grade came, I wanted more focus and explanation of each grammatical concept with more practice than the Daily Grams offered.  So I bought the Easy Grammar text.
  • Easy Grammar:  Grade 4  Okay.  There are three books you can buy:  Easy Grammar Grade 4 teacher’s edition, Easy Grammar Grade 4 Student Workbook, and Easy Grammar Grade 4 Student Test Booklet.  I purchased only the teacher’s manual.  However, the cover of the book I bought doesn’t say “Teacher’s Manual!”  It only says “Easy Grammar Grade 4.”  The teacher’s manual contains the grammatical explanation text, worksheets, reviews, tests, answers, and teaching tips all bound together in one book.  My daughter works from the teacher’s manual.  One very minor glitch in this is that the answers are on the left side of the page and the worksheet/ test on the right side of the page.  We cover the answers with a sheet of paper and have no issues.  Alternatively, you could copy the assignments ahead of time from the book so the answers aren’t tempting your student.  Another minor glitch with using the teacher’s manual for the student textbook is that they can read the author’s tips to the teacher if they wanted to.  No biggie to me.

Easy Grammar Daily GramsPoints to know:

  • It’s all black and white.  Often this can be a deterrent, but I feel in this case it is a strength.  Wanda Phillips, Ed.D. runs such a tight ship with the books.  Seriously, she manages to get what you need in there with nothing extraneous to distract and frustrate!  It’s a clean, concise machine.
  • Work usually can be completed independently without much, if any help.  I love this.
  • The author teaches a prepositional approach to understanding sentences, allowing easy recognition of the parts of a sentence.  One of the hardest parts of the book is having the kids learn the required prepositions at the beginning–after that they then look for prepositional phrases  and can exclude them from searching for subjects and verbs.  Makes understanding the parts of the sentences much simpler, but they have to do a little work up front which can seem intimidating.  We memorized them over a few weeks and continued on.
  • Pages are not perforated in the teacher’s manual or Daily Grams.  You cannot tear them out easily, which can be a problem if you only buy the “all-inclusive” book I bought, as the answers for the worksheets are sitting right on the next page.
  • At the end of every chapter, there is a chapter review, a cumulative review, and a cumulative test.  I did not make my daughter do all of those as it was way too much busy, repetitive work if she understood all the concepts!  However, we usually did the chapter review and the cumulative test.  I really appreciate the cumulative nature of this text!
  • The difference between the Daily Gram Worksheets and the Worksheets is that the worksheets pertain only to the material being learned in the current chapter.  The Daily Grams are cumulative and very quick and concise.  I did both because I like repetition and always having the brain presented with what it learned in the past, so it doesn’t forget.  However, I do think we could have gotten by in fourth grade without the Daily Grams.
  • There is no writing practice.  This text doesn’t try to incorporate writing skills with the grammar skills–EXCEPT she does have the kids practice combining simple sentences into complex sentences in the Daily Grams.  My daughter can make nice, complex, grammatical sentences because of this text, but it does not offer writing practice.
  • She provides enough teacher instruction without making you googly-eyed trying to sort through it all!  Her tips are valid and thoughtful.

How we did grammar this year: 

This year, I decided to actually double up on her grammar lessons in the first semester.  She did two Daily Grams every day, and I mapped out the Easy Grammar:  Grade 4 text/worksheets/tests so that we finished it in one semester.  Even doing this double-pace, she rarely punked an attitude about grammar!  Whew!  I chose to do this so she could begin focusing on writing in the second semester–rather than combining them together throughout the year.  I thought she’d do better focusing on one side of “writing” at a time–grammar first and then actually putting together ideas.  So far, I’m very pleased.

IEWInstitute for Excellence in Writing (IEW):  Student Writing Intensive

This will not be a comprehensive review because I’ve only used the Writing Intensive Level A and that only for a 2-3 months.

We began Institute for Excellence in Writing for my daughter’s writing curriculum in the second semester.   I’ve heard great reviews on IEW, and we have enjoyed our last couple months with it, as well.  Again, what in the heck do you purchase?  Reading all those descriptions on the web-site gets really confusing!  I bought Package A:

  • Student Writing Intensive Level A  This came with DVDs to watch, a binder, lesson plans, and passages to practice the writing techniques taught.  It’s what I needed for sure.  (Although I wonder if I couldn’t have gotten by with a  theme-based book and learned the same things and had my child learn a particular topic area, too.  More below.)
  • Teaching Writing:  Structure and Style  I also bought this because I thought I might need it;  it was part of the package.  I have not watched it yet!  I plan on it, but we have had NO problems doing the Student Writing Intensive Level A assignments just based on watching the DVDs and following the lesson plans.  I don’t know when I’ll get around to watching this.  Money could probably be saved by not purchasing this.

Points to know:

  • Perhaps it was pregnancy brain, but I thought the binder/planner could have been organized just a wee bit better.  We got it figured out.
  • Students learn by watching a DVD and then applying what is taught to passages provided in the binder.
  • The DVD is not divided up into lessons so you have to thumb through the planner and figure out when you need to stop the DVD.  Basically, the DVD is just Mr. Pudewa giving his presentation live in a workshop to a group of children; it rolls from beginning to end.  You or your child (if you’re trying to prepare lunch) has to know when to stop it.  Minor complaint, but I wish they’d break it up according to their lesson guides.
  • My daughter really liked this program at first because Mr. Pudewa was funny and it was new and exciting.  As she has been required to write more and more, she doesn’t like it so much anymore.  She hates the physical act of writing and she now transfers that on to poor Mr. Pudewa.  But I still think it’s one of the best programs to get her to do writing.
  • IEW teaches writing by using existing written passages/stories and outline formation.  I was ecstatic to see outline formation taught to her at such a young age!  It will serve her well throughout the rest of her education!  She keeps asking when she can “write her own story,” so she does have a sense that she is not really writing with this approach.  We are not yet through the complete program, and this may come later–I don’t know.  If not, no biggie.  I’ll just have her write her own story!
  • I saw a friend had the Ancient History based writing lessons!  This is a part of IEW’s “them-based writing.”  As I looked through it, I realized that it was teaching everything that is taught in the Writing Intensive A!  We will definitely be purchasing some of these themed books to use for writing after we finish the Writing Intensive.  I would suggest you look, read, and ask around because you may be able to skip the Writing Intensives and just do these nicely bound theme-based books without missing out!  They looked awesome and it really seemed to be teaching the kids the same writing concepts as watching the DVD!

I guess that’s it.  That’s how we’ve opted to handle grammar and writing this fourth-grade year.  How about anyone else?  What do you think?  What do you use?  Love?  Hate?  And after deciding on a curriculum, does anyone else have trouble sorting through exactly which books of the curriculum you need to buy!!?

I hope you are having a wonderful day!  ~~Terri

Review from an Amazon Sucker: Paleo Wraps

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..We tried Paleo Wraps.

Gonna’ see if I can get this brain braining again, (Thanks, Rachel at www.doilooksick.com for that nice colorful phrase.)  beginning with an unbiased, uncompensated, simple review of a new product we tried this morning. I stumbled across “Paleo Wraps” as I was purchasing coconut milk from Amazon the other day.  Amazon sucker I am.  That’s the phrase they use to reel you in, “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”

What Are Paleo Wraps (Coconut Wraps)?

I wish they would have chosen another name.  Hypoallergenic Wraps.  One-Ingredient Wraps.  Simple Wraps.  “Don’t You Miss Wraps” Wraps.  “Look, I Have A Wrap, Too” Wraps.  “My Wrap’s Healthier Than Your Wrap” Wraps.

They are simply thin, papery wraps made out of coconut, coconut water, and coconut oil.  That’s it.  So they’re vegan.  They’re Paleo.  They’re real food for whoever eats real food.  All organic.  All GMO-free.

They measure about 8 inches by 8 inches, and they are thin.  Even thinner than a French crepe and not as pliable–but still pliable enough.  Maybe almost a little leathery?  They have a mild coconut flavor and a mild sweetness.  With the contents of our wrap, I liked it.

They have a total carbohydrate count of 6 grams, and a net carbohydrate count of 4 grams.  Seventy calories per wrap.  Five total fat grams with 4 grams of that being saturated.  One gram of protein.

Only seven wraps come in one package.  They cost $9.99 on Amazon.  Pretty pricey for that thin little wrap.  Luckily, they don’t spoil and can be kept for 9 months at room temperature.

How Did They Perform?

We used the wraps this morning for bacon and spinach wraps.  I was a bit disappointed to see that several of the wraps Gluten free wraphad broken across the top and began to fret that they wouldn’t roll but would instead crumble and break.  My fear was unfounded.  Despite their thinness, they rolled very nicely.  After loading in three slices of bacon, about 1/4 cup of raw spinach, some mayo, and some sliced cherry tomatoes, I rolled the wrap, making sure to start with the broken end.  The wrap rolled just fine and did not fall apart at all in the hands of my children.  They gave me smiles and a huge thumbs up.  Breakfast can be a challenging part of the day, and this made it simple and fun.

On the first wrap, because of my fear of “crumbling”, I nuked the wrap for 10 seconds.  The next wrap, I decided to not “nuke” it.  Heating the wrap made no difference whatsoever in the utility of the wrap, although I read you can fry them up and make them crisp for something like an egg roll.  Or top them and throw them in the oven to broil.  Or throw in a toaster oven.

My take on my wrap with bacon, spinach, and mustard:  “Gee.  It is nice to be eating with my hands again.  I feel so American when I eat with my hands.  Wow.  Nothing is falling out with each bite.  This is good.  Mmmm.  The texture of the wrap provides some resistance so my teeth know that something is there.  I like that.  And it’s not really chewy or soft or gooey or crunchy.  It’s just a nice bite through the wrap and I’m on my way.  There is a hint of sweetness that’s not so bad with my bacon and spinach.”  I ate through two of them, and then I stopped.  As with any bread product, I could have handled the whole pack.

Trying out Paleo WrapsWill I Buy These Again?

Yes.  I can see us using them about 2-4 times a year.  The kids really liked having a wrap.  If they cost less, I would use them much more frequently, I believe.  It would be nice to have them be no more than one dollar per wrap.  Also, if they were available on the store shelf rather than through mail-order.  I am a bit wary about ordering them again on-line because the top 1/8th of each of them was broken straight across.  Luckily, not down the middle or something!  That would have been grounds  for a return.  But I never return anything.  If it makes it into the walls of my house, it has a new home.  These would be great for school lunches.  These are not good for me because I want to eat them all.  Luckily, my husband was skipping breakfast or we would not have had enough to go around at about two per person.

Have you ever tried these?   How do you do with coconut products?  How do your kids do with coconut products?  Do you ever leave Amazon with more than your shopping list?