Wednesday, May 23, 2018

T Is for Tree

Our family spends much time each day reading between what is required for schoolwork and what is chosen solely for pleasure. Most of the time, the books we review tend to be for the older kids--chapter books, biographies, historical non-fiction, etc.. I love reading those together as a family and appreciate many aspects of studying that kind of literature with my kids. However, there is something so special about cuddling close with a little one and enjoying a picture book. Our newest snuggle-inducing read is T is for Tree: A Bible ABC from Reformed Free Publishing Association.

Reformed Free Publishing Association was established in 1924 as an independent, non-profit organization. Their literature includes commentaries, devotionals, Bible study guides, church history, Christian living, children's materials, educational curriculum, and more. They have a wide selection as their book catalog contains over 70 titles and options of print, audio, and downloadable products.

T is for Tree, written by Connie L. Meyer, is more than a simple alphabet book for little ones. This book focuses on God while teaching the ABCs. Bible verses, truths, and promises in God's Word are woven throughout the pages.

Each letter of the alphabet has its own page. The capital letter is prominent and followed by its chosen word. F is for faith. J is for jewel. R is for ravens. Z is for Zion. A short 3-line poem and Bible passage accompany each letter and are complemented by beautiful illustrations.
I've been reading this book with my two youngest children. We don't read the verses every time, as the 3-year-old doesn't always have the longest attention span. Twenty-six pages of letters and short rhymes makes the length perfect for him for special book time in the afternoon, a bedtime story at night, or just some extra snuggle time whenever. I love that not only do my boys like to shout out the letters before I read them, but that the truths of God and His love for us are being cemented in their hearts. 

The poems themselves make this a good book for older children, too. Most typical ABC books are cute and sing-songy, but even though this one rhymes as well, the vocabulary is more advanced. Words like fearsomewithersuffereddwelling, and others are used. The syntax is a bit more advanced than preschool age at times, too. As I love to incorporate read-alouds that are above my kids' levels, I appreciate that aspect of this book. It also makes it more enjoyable for an older child to read to a younger sibling.

Some of my personal favorite pages are C, P, and J.

J is for JEWEL

There's rubies, and there's gold;
But far more precious are the lips
That speak with knowledge told.

"There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the 
lips of knowledge are a precious jewel." --Proverbs 20:15 

This one has a second group of verses wrapped around the border of the page, too.

"Receive my instruction, and not silver;and knowledge rather than choice gold. 
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared 
to it." --Proverbs 8:10-11 

So often, our flesh is drawn to want gold and silver and jewels. We want wealth and nice things. But so much more, we should desire knowledge and instruction from God. Wisdom is far more valuable than earthly treasures. To instill that truth in the hearts of my children while they are young is my goal. Weaving those principles in a simple children's book is a bonus.

T is for Tree: A Bible ABC is a beautiful hardcover book that is full of teaching opportunities. Whether you use it to introduce the alphabet, to reinforce biblical truths, as a basis for Bible memorization, or simply as a picture book to enjoy with your child, this one is sure to please.

You can connect with on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this book on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 4/20/18

Jake (12), Alyssa (10), Zac (8), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3)

Happy Weekend! Do you have a Smile to share with us this week? Share your funny quote, special memory, or happy event below so we can Smile with you!

1. Tyler, holding fresh laundry: "Mmm, this smells warm."

2. Nicholas: "Don't sit on dat!"
Zac: "Who said?"
Nicholas: "Nobody!"

3. Nicholas, because the older kids like to look on Lego's website: "I want to look at Duplo .com."

4. My Dad: "What's your name?"
Nicholas: "Nicholas."
My Dad: "Oh. I like you."
Nicholas. "Yep."

5. Tyler: "Nobody can beat you at making stuff, Mom. Well, except two people: God and Jesus."


7. Zac: "Guess what! I just reached the oven timer to shut it off--without a step stool!"
Me: "Whoa! Who said you could get that tall?"
Zac: "Me."
Me, teasing, giving him the evil eye: "Hmm . . ."
Zac: "God! God, God. You can't mess with God."

8. Tyler, drinking ice water: "The ice cubes are going to get smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller and then they're going to be a myth!"

9. Nicholas, because Tyler knocked him down: "Tyler, stop falling me down!"

10. Zac: "Is this a softball?"
Me: "It is a soft ball, but not a softball."
Zac: "Well then, what is it?"
Me: "Do you know what a softball is?"
Zac: "uh, no?"
Me: "It's a big, hard baseball."
Zac: "What! Then why is it called a softball?!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, May 17, 2018


I am an advocate of learning through play, especially in the preschool years. Any reviews for that age need to be fun. I like to keep my kiddos not just engaged and learning, but enjoying the process, as well. It's that love of learning that I long to instill in them while they're little.  

We don't do a lot of formal schooling when they're young, however, we've been learning with a new curriculum subscription from PandaParents, specifically for those little ones, called MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS.

Many preschool educational resources focus on single-subject learning and often rely on digital apps and games or television shows. PandaParents designed their curriculum to ensure a better learning experience. Their method minimizes rote memorization and screen-dependent learning, while building fast, neural brain connections. Instead of teaching only one concept before moving on to the next, their lessons are more like unit studies for little ones. Lessons teach letters, words, math, reading, science, behavior, emotions, music, and art, along with additional skills such as matching, sorting, patterns, comparing, coloring, tracing, cutting, gluing, and more. This multi-sensory curriculum can be summed up as follows: 
  • M -- Mixed pre-school subjects for integrative learning
  • E -- Engaging questions & activities for effective learning
  • S -- Simple 1-2-3 steps: Read, Learn, Create
  • S -- Smart designs for creative learning
  • Y -- Yeah, a new way to promote early brain growth! 

Each month of the curriculum includes 1-2 storybooks, 1-2 story videos, and 1 workbook. So far, we were sent three months of the service: A Jolly Jingling Journey, A Mommy & Baby Story, and Spring Is Here. We started with A Jolly Jingling Journey for no other reason than it was at the top of our download list, and I assumed that meant it was first. Further research would have shown that the lessons can be done in any order. So that totally means that we can do Christmas-based learning in April and May, right? Ha.   

A Jolly Jingling Story comes with 2 storybooks: A Jubilant Surprise and An Epic Journey. Both stories feature a boy name Davy and his dogs. In the first story, the group travels to the North Pole to find Santa. There are a learning aspects along the way, such as pointing out a pattern, finding hidden pictures, and answering questions based on pictures. The story focuses on J words and makes each one begin with a red letter. Jelly, jaguar, jubilant, joyfully, jump, and job are a few that are included. In the second story, Davy and his pets follow tracks to help Santa find his missing reindeer. 

There are also 2 read-to-me videos in this course. The first one shows a juggler who juggles candy canes that look like the letter J. The second video is substantially longer as it is the retelling of the 2 storybooks and includes activities like finding specific letters and counting reindeer.

The workbook is a 40-page book filled with many activities to help build complex brain functions and hone fine motor skills. The children are encouraged to recall the stories as they complete the  pages. Activities include reading, writing, tracing, sequencing, matching, counting, completing patterns, and sorting colors and shapes, along with others. There are also pages that have pictures with dashed lines that can be cut out and glued to be used as "stickers."

I've been using our PandaParents subscription with my 6-year-old and 3-year-old. Currently, everything is digital only, as the company is taking orders for printed materials. Because of that, we're having to read the stories on the computer, as well as watch the videos. The A Jolly Jingling Story PDF workbook is filled with colored pages, so printing each page is not feasible as it would eat through our ink. We're doing the majority of the activity pages on the computer, as well, and printing only a few. Instead of circling objects, my boys point to them on the screen, and instead of drawing lines to make matches, they use their fingers. It loses the fine motor practice, but the other skills are still being taught. The other workbooks we were sent includes many of the same type of activities and incorporate others like matching tails to the animals, simple art projects such as creating a sailboat and making a panda, short educational stories, and more.

The storybooks contain simple, almost primitive artwork. Many of the characters have eyes that are different sizes, giving them an unsettling look. As I much prefer to read physical books that the kids can hold in their hands, flip the pages, and enjoy at any time, these digital ones just do not have that appeal.

The videos include that same artwork and are simple images on a screen. Honestly, the voices themselves are somewhat unpleasant to listen to. In fact, if my older kids are in the room while the younger ones start watching, they will leave so they do not have to hear it. But, they purpose of the curriculum is not to entertain older kids and adults. Its purpose is to educate preschoolers. The real test is how it holds the attention of that age group. And my little ones love it! Seriously, my 3-year-old would sit and watch his "Santa movie" every day if I let him. They have watched all 3 of the videos we have and enjoy them all. 

I have mixed feelings about this curriculum. It would be much more user-friendly if it were printed materials, for sure. The fact that they are trying to offer a program that is not screen-dependent, yet we use the computer screen for the majority of it is ironic. There are no set lesson plans involved, as parents are encouraged to use the activities that are best for their families. A rough schedule of 30-60 minutes a day 2-3 days a week is suggested. It's short enough to keep their attention, yet covers enough skills to keep them learning.

I can overlook the visual and auditory aspects of the program that I personally don't care for since my little ones are interested and learning. 

You can connect with on the following social media sites:

You can see additional opinions of homeschoolers of this program by reading more reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Kayla Jarmon Books

It seems like I'm always talking about or reviewing books, doesn't it? That's because reading is a pivotal aspect of our education. Whether we're flipping through the pages of a picture book, getting lost in the adventure of a chapter book, getting caught up in the facts of a biography, or learning through any other type, our family spends much time in books, both together as a whole and as individuals.

Because we read so much, we are always happy to receive new reading material like these three books from author Kayla Jarmon. Though her first published book came out less than a year ago, she has been writing everything from stories to films to blog articles for many years. She homeschooled her now-grown children and eagerly supports the homeschooling of her grandchildren and others as they take time to contemplate God in all things. These books are a testament to that. 

Don't Forget Me is first in the Discussion Book series and Kayla's first published book. This series is designed to be a springboard for parents to use to spark thoughtful conversations with their children. The topics in the discussion series will help you reflect on the truths of God and study His Word deeper. 

The series starts at the beginning, literally. Don't Forget Me is written as a conversation between a baby and God. It begins with conception, nothing graphic, but simple images inside the womb. The baby learns about his mother and father, singing, reading, and praying while God continually reminds him that He is always there. The story continues as the baby grows and is eventually born in the hospital. 

There is no narration as the entire book is quotes. You can tell who is talking because God's words are larger and in bold. Once the baby is born, a few other people speak. Those can be distinguished by the blue and pink highlights over their words.   

The second book in the Discussion series is Dying Is Part of This World. Though this is part of the same series and designed to encourage deeper conversations, this book is much different from the first. This one is a 40+ page chapter books with only a handful of pictures. 

  1. Fear of Death
  2. Remembering
  3. Preparations Stages
  4. Time Here and There
  5. Help When Losing Someone
  6. The Second Death
  7. God's Economy
Like the first book, this one is also conversational style and focuses on a mother and child. They talk about birth and raising a child. The mother explains that just like a baby isn't meant to stay in the womb, we are not meant to stay on Earth either and we shouldn't fear death. 

With topics including life, death, Heaven, Hell, sin, and salvation, this book tackles some difficult subjects. The end of each chapter lists 5 discussion questions along with multiple Bible references.   

A Boy and His Dog lets you join in the adventures of these best friends. They wake up together, eat breakfast together, and explore together. They chase squirrels, give wagon rides, play in the leaves, swing from trees, share snacks, dig for treasure, play in the mud, take baths, and more before they cuddle up for bed to rest for a new day of fun.

This fiction book brings to life the realities of the bond between a boy and his dog. I'm sure it will ring true to all dog owners and bring some knowing nods. 

While I'm sure there are many people that love these books, unfortunately they just weren't for us. I read over them first by myself and was hesitant to read them to the kids. Sometimes though their opinions are different from mine, so I was curious to see what they thought. Sadly, they, too, felt the stories were a bit odd. I don't feel like I need to explain the exact reasons of each book, because I don't want to just be negative. I will say that my daughter, our biggest bibliophile, liked Dying Is Part of This World the best, yet it couldn't keep the attention of my boys.

Kayla Jarmon is planning to offer all of her titles in audio form. I would be interested to see if that version is more accepted in our home.

If you like the examples of the books shown here, please visit her website or read more reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

You can connect with Kayla Jarmon on the following social media sites:

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 4/6/18

Jake (12), Alyssa (10), Zac (8), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3)

This was the week of Easter and all of its celebrations; we took the kids to their first Hockey Game at Little Caesar's Arena; and we spent time with friends.  

1. Zac, wrapped up in a blanket: "I'm a mummy!"
Nicholas: "I a daddy!"

2. Nicholas, first thing in the morning, pointing to the window: "Mommy, I want you turn off dat light."
Me: "Honey, I can't. That's the sun."
Nicholas: "I want you turn off dat sun light."


4. Nicholas: "Can I have a cookie?"
Me: "Did you already have one?"
Nicholas: "I had one next week."

5. Nicholas: "Mama, you have a cute little face."

6. Nicholas: "Can I? Pease, Mama?"
Me: "No, honey, I'm sorry."
Nicholas: "But I did dat next week!"

7. Alyssa, reading: "Col-o-nel."
Me: "It's pronounced kernel."
Alyssa: "Wait. What happened to the R?


9. Nicholas: "Is Gramma here?"
Me: "No."
Nicholas, pouting: "I want candy."

10. Alyssa, looking at the bunnies my parents bought the kids for Easter: "Oh, phew, it's solid milk chocolate."

11. Zac: "When I grow up, do you think I'm going to grow chestal hair?"
Me: "Maybe. But it's chest hair."
Zac: "Well, it's facial hair, so it should be chestal hair."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, May 4, 2018


My oldest child, Jake, has a great interest in programming. I knew he would appreciate a live class  from CodeWizardsHQ to review. He got a coding book for Christmas, has borrowed a few others from the library, and has read instructional resources online. He can often be found programming on Scratch, Python, or his Raspberry Pi.

I personally don't understand any of that myself, but my techie husband does and he's able to help our son to some extent. Jake has a desire to pursue programming as a career though, so these coding classes for kids and homeschool computer programs would help him to succeed and truly understand coding at a professional level. 

CodeWizardsHQ generally focuses on 12-week courses in which they inspire students to have a passion for coding through fun and engaging projects. Occasionally though, they offer a one-time class. It is this one-time, one-hour class that we experienced.

Their approach to coding "combines the benefits of teacher-led instruction and the ease and convenience of online classrooms." Each class is taught live, so the student can see, hear, and interact with the instructor in real-time. Because each class has only 6-8 students, the instructor is able to give personal attention to each student and offer feedback, encouragement, and suggestions.

Their well-structured program and developmental curriculum have been designed by professionals with a passion for coding. Each class is challenging enough to keep students advancing toward mastery, but fun enough to keep them engaged. Students learn "real text coding, the logic, structure and practical applications of important programming languages." There are four courses a student can progress through, starting with the Introduction to Programming course and ending with an Internship Program with a nonprofit organization. By the end of the classes, a student will have the coding skills he needs for additional internships, scholarships, colleges, and jobs. 

Jake was excited for his class. Signing in was easy, and the instructor was immediately friendly and helpful. Because Jake is only 12 years old and this is a safe environment, this was his first experience with online chat. He was able to interact with the four other middle school and high school students that were in his class as they learned together.

This was the first class of first introductory course, so it was pretty basic. The student's project was to create a comic strip using HTML. There were various preset options they could choose to change the background, add a character, insert text, or include a picture. The project was based around copying these preset codes and inserting them into the template. 

I understand that this was just a first class, but there were some things that concerned me. For instance, if the students wanted to use an image that was not in the coding platform, they were encouraged to upload their own picture from an online search. There was no mention of copyright issues. This could potentially cause problems, for both the student and the company. Also, Jake didn't feel like he really learned anything as the whole class was simply copying and pasting. There was no instruction as to the format needed or what HTML even meant. I would assume these things would be addressed in later classes, but I cannot be sure.

Looking over their site, it seems like CodeWizardsHQ is a quality, structured coding education. It looks like the instructors are qualified and the projects are engaging, but I cannot get a true understanding of it with only one class. I can say that Jake enjoyed the class and would be interested in continuing with the course. 

You can connect with CodeWizardsHQ on the following social media sites:
Facebook Group (for parents whose kids are interested in coding)

You can read more reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Weigl Publishers

Our family never tires of receiving new books to review. Whether we're reading aloud together or individually poring over the pages, we focus our education on books and lots of them. That's why we're pleased to be introduced to new titles and companies.

Weigl Publishers offers increased learning with their media enhanced AV² books. This "added value, audio visual" experience pairs printed books with online content. The integrated digital learning  (which can be accessed using a code found in each book) supplements the stories and brings the books to life. The AV² series incorporate a wide range of books, including science, social studies, visuals, biographies, and much more. We were able to experience books from various collections:  

  • There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant
  • A Lion's World
  • Glaciers

There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant is a fiction book that was geared toward grades K-2. This cute story is a western version of the original one about swallowing a fly. And just like its counterpart, this one is as ridiculously silly. It's sure to make your little one giggle as the cowpoke frantically tries to stop the fiery ant from burning his stomach. Roadrunner, armadillo, boar, and longhorn are a few of the desert animals that he tries before he decides to take matters into his own hands and the story gets even sillier. "If I want it done right, I'll do it myself."

The illustrations are colorful and whimsical which complements the story well and makes it fun to read. Accessing the digital content to the book allows the child to read it by himself on the screen or listen to it read to him. The narrator has a pleasant voice and uses good intonation. The cowpoke is voiced by another person who uses an appropriate cowpoke twang.   

A Lion's World is part of the EyeDiscover set. This book is filled with beautiful, full-page photographs of lions. Each two-page spread gives a fact about lions, including how they look, where they live, what they do, how far their roars can be heard, and more. The end of the book lists a handful of additional facts. This simple book appeals to grades K-2.

The online content enhances the book with an optic readalong. Each page is brought to life as the picture from the book is changed to a video. The text is read aloud as the video clip repeats. You can watch a lion run, hear one roar, observe them as they play, and be amazed by their power and beauty.

Glaciers is part of the Earth's Water series and is a much more advanced book than the other two. It gives much information about studying glaciers, their size, location, movement, icebergs, and more. Astonishing photographs along with illustrations and charts fill the pages.

Because this book is for the 3-6 grade crowd, the media enhanced portion includes greater learning options. Along with the audio aspect of each page, there are additional features embedded throughout. You can go through page by page and discover which resources are included or you can click on each type in the beginning which highlights each page that utilizes that kind. There are videos, printable activities, web links, slideshows, transparencies, interactive maps, and quizzes. You could easily spend days studying glaciers with this book.

My kids and I have enjoyed reading these books. They are all very different, which gave us a glimpse of the variety of books produced by Weigl Publishers. The books themselves are fun, but the digital enhancements really added a fun new learning aspect. With over 1,800 media enhanced AV² books, there's sure to be something for everyone. 

You can read more reviews of these books on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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