Sunday, November 19, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/17/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2) 

Happy weekend! This week Jake went to The Henry Ford Museum with friends, we had our first Game Schooling day, Leighton took Zac to the zoo for his Special Day to celebrate his 8th birthday, and we enjoyed time together as a family. 

1. Jake: "What do bugs learn in kindergarten?"
Me: "I don't know. What?"
Jake: "The A, B, fleas."

2. Nicholas: "I 'mall. You big and Daddy big, but I 'mall."

3. Me: "Hey, that's cool! Where did you learn that?"
Tyler: "My brain taught me."


5. Me, frustrated: "Aw, Ty, why did you do that?"
Tyler: "I didn't do it on accident."
Me, humored by his mix-up: "You didn't?"
Tyler: "No, I'm serious. It wasn't on accident!"

6. Alyssa: "Every good notebook tells you how many pages are in it."

7. Zac: "Mom, I bet you'd win a breakfast, lunch, or dinner competition show, because everything you make is delicious."

8. Zac, showing a die with one dot: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "One."
Zac, showing a die with two dots: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "Two."
Zac, showing a die with three dots: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "Upstairs." 

(looks like a set of stairs up, up, up)

9. Me: "Are you my boy?"
Nicholas: "No. "
Me: "No?! Well then, whose boy are you?"
Nicholas: "Daddy's."
Me: "You're Daddy's boy?"
Nicholas: "Yeah. He my bess fwend."

10. Nicholas, to me: "Hey, babe? I want someping to dwink."

11. Nicholas: "I have fuit nacks?"
Me: "No. We don't even have fruit snacks."
Nicholas, dejected: "Aww, Jesus have fuit nacks!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/10/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Weekend! This week, we finished up another year with the Homeschool Review Crew, Leighton took Zac to the zoo for his special day alone for his birthday, the kiddos made some easy fall decorations, we celebrated Leighton's birthday, and we made sure to Smile. 

1. Tyler: "Mom, I think we have too many toys."
Me: "Can I get that in writing?"
Tyler: "But, Mom, pleeeeease don't get rid of any of my toys. I love them. I'm serious."

2. Tyler, to Zac: "I remember when you were 5. I don't remember when you were 6 though."

3. Me: "Does anyone realize that I'm up and organizing the pantry?"
Alyssa: "Yes."
Me: "Isn't that amazing?!"
Alyssa: "Yes. If you think it's amazing, I think it's amazing."

4. Nicholas, sitting on Jake's shoulders, squeezing around his face and clawing his eyes: "Hug. Let's be fwends."


6. Alyssa, watching my dad make shapes with dominoes and give the names for shapes with 8, 9, and 10 sides: "Just when you think shapes can't get more complicated . . . "

7. Tyler: "I like socks. You can wear them on any feet you want!"

8. Jake: "What do you call a sea chocolate?"
Me: "Hmm . . . I don't know. What?"
Jake: "An M&Mone." (anemone) 

9. Nicholas, in bed at 10:30 p.m., wide awake: “Mommy, can I hold you? Mommy? Mommy! Can I hold you? Can I hold you, pease?!"
Me, from my room: "No." 
Nicholas: "Oh, man! Pease, Mama! Pease, Mama! Pease! I need my water. Where my cup? Hey, where my punkin? Pizza! Pizza. Pizza. Where is eberyone? Eberyone? Where are you? Hmm, my bess fwend . . . Sissa, turn on your light. Sissa, turn on your light! Sissa!" 
Alyssa: "Go to sleep."
Nicholas: "No, you go to fweep! {grabs a book to read} Dis go pirate. Hmm, dis go pirate, too. Dis go ship . . .”

10. Tyler: "Yesterday was my worst day ever."
Me: "It was? Why is that?"
Tyler: "I don't know."
Me: "It was the worst day but  you don't know why?"
Tyler: "Oh, that's right, yesterday wasn't my worst day ever. A long time ago was."
Me: "Well, why was that day your worst day ever?"
Tyler: "I don't know! I don't remember anything about that day."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Like an Engineer

It's hard to believe this is our last review with the Homeschool Review Crew for 2017! We've received some amazing products this year, but what better way is there to end than with one my son's favorites?

As soon as I watched the introduction video of Thinking Like an Engineer, I knew my oldest son would love it. He wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I was . . . until he started the course. Then he was hooked! I can't even tell you how many times now he's thanked me for signing him up for Innovators Tribe

Innovators Tribe was created to help revive innovation, creativity, and discovery. STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) is being recognized more and more for its importance. Wayne Kroeplin (Mr. K) created the Innovators Tribe's courses--Engineer, Architect, Carpenter (coming soon)--to direct students to become problem-solvers and innovators who are driven by their natural abilities. The self-paced, interactive lessons take the work away from the parents and give them the resources and confidence they need to support their students. These online courses are ideal for 6th-12th graders who love technology and hands-on activities.

Thinking Like an Engineer covers the following the topics:

  • Introduction to Enginnering
  • Introduction to 3D Design (tools of modern design)
  • Engineering Rollercoasters
  • Engineering Bridges
  • Nano Engineering (Discovery of a New World)
  • Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion

The lessons are a combination of videos, slides, pictures, and text. Mr K teaches in a way that makes the information easy to understand. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject spills over into his teaching which causes the viewer to catch some of that excitement, too.

One of the best ways to learn something is to do it. That's why there are many engaging challenges to reinforce the lessons. Students will build a tall paper tower, find the best way to craft paper to hold up pounds of books, build a filter to purify water, learn how to 3D design, build a working mechanism completely out of paper, design and create a rollercoaster, construct a suspension bridge, and more.

When I said that my son loved the program, I wasn't exaggerating. The course requires approximately 30 hours to complete, including projects. We've had access to Innovators Tribe for just over a month, and he's gone through all the lessons. All the lessons. On his own. I'd get up in the mornings to find him already working through the material. There are some challenges that he still needs to do, but he's waiting for help from my husband. He just couldn't wait to move on though and would watch the next portions before completing certain projects.

My husband was interested in engineering and architecture when he was a teenager. He had planned to make it his career before God called him to Bible college. Now, it's amazing to see how often he gets to use his talents at his demolition job. He's often solving problems and creating new tools to meet their needs. His inventions amaze me. Our oldest son is just like him. It's been fun watching the two of them talk about this engineering course and working together.

One thing that drew my boy to the program is the inclusion of 3D CAD software. He loves designing (which is why you can find him building with LEGO at any given moment) and technology. He is fascinated watching my husband design and create things on his 3D printer. So when he had access to his own lessons to teach him the ins and outs of the software, he was ecstatic. He completed the challenges in that version and then moved on to the advanced lesson using the software that my husband uses. He has learned so much in such a short amount of time and has far surpassed what is included in the course. The things he has designed on his own are so impressive and contain much detail.

I cannot say enough about this program. It is challenging to get my son motivated to do schoolwork, so saying that he completed this course much sooner than required and then spent numerous hours delving into deeper study is astonishing. It's not just because of the topic either, because we've used other engineering type of programs that just couldn't motivate his inner engineer. Innovators Tribe truly is remarkable.

Once he and my husband finish all the projects, I would like to have him work through Thinking Like an Architect and the newest course, Thinking Like a Carpenter. We hope to be part of the Tribe for a long time.

You can see some of the fun and engaging activities that are included in Thinking Like an Engineer in the video below. What you can't hear in this is when he was lifting the books and said, "Whoa! These are heavy. This paper is stronger than me!" Come watch how he made 1 piece of paper and a little tape hold up dozens of pounds of books.

Thank you, Innovators Tribe for sparking this passion in my son and encouraging him to apply himself and his engineering mind. Here's to the next generation of innovators. 

You can read more reviews of this program and also of the architecture version on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

My kids are so excited every time we get to review for The Pencil Grip, Inc.. They love arts and crafts and appreciate getting new supplies to make creations. The mess-free Kwik Stix are well-loved in our house by both kids and mom alike. The kids equally like the thinner version of the stix as well, but had only used the classic colors. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they opened the box with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. was started in 1992 by Dr Lois Provda, an educational therapist. The company has been selling hundreds of unique and innovative products for the school, home, and office ever since. They offer the original ergonomic pencil grips that encourage proper writing skills, textured products that appeal to sensory-seeking kids, ultra-safe scissors, basic office supplies, and, of course, the Stix. 

The Thin Stix, just like the original Kwik Stix, are solid tempera paint sticks, but without the mess. That means we don't always have to pull out the paint, brushes, smocks, and cups whenever the kiddos want to create masterpieces. Don't get me wrong, my kids love traditional painting! But Mom doesn't always want to deal with the hassle. With these paint sticks, they can simply uncap, twist, and paint to their hearts' content. On top of that, the fast-drying formula of the stix though allows the color to dry in only 90 seconds!  Now we don't have paintings drying all over the house. The pages can simply be stacked in one neat pile. 

Even times when I would say no to a full-on painting session, I would never deny their requests for the Thin Stix. So quick and easy.  

The Stix remind me of a big tube of lipstick. The paint is waxy and slightly tacky. They silkily glide across the paper as you swipe. (I admit, it's a bit addicting!) Using them is more like coloring than painting though since you draw instead of brush the color around. The finish on the page is paint-like with a shimmery sheen, so the completed project looks like it was painted.

The Thin Stix are much slimmer than their original counterpart. Their size and length are similar to markers. They have slightly less paint inside (0.35 oz for the original, 0.21 oz for the thin). You can be more precise and accurate with the thin version.

Just like the regular Kwik Stix come in a variety of colors (classic, neon, and metalix,), the Thin Stix do, as well. All the colors are fun, but the shimmery metalix are my personal favorite, and given the fact that my kids "ration" the use of the gold and silver stix, I'd say they're their favorites, too, ha. 

We've used these to paint on all types of paper, coffee filters, popsicle sticks, wood, and styrofoam plates. They really are easy to use on just about any surface (just ask the 2-year-old how much fun it is to use these to paint on the kitchen table. Stinker.) This time we made sure to make some fall decorations to display on the windows. The kids and I had fun swirling the colors on pages. Then we flipped the pages over to draw leaves and cut them out. It was a fun surprise every time we turned them over to see how the patterns and colors came together.    

The Thin Stix Creativity Pack offers so many opportunities for creativity. If you're looking for a mess-free, fun, and easy form of art, these Kwix Stix may be just what you need.

You can connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. on the following social media sites:

You can find more art projects made with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack by reading the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/3/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler 5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy weekend! What a fantastic week it's been! Zac turned 8 years old, we celebrated 3 of the boys' birthdays with a party with family, and after 11 weeks I can walk! I still have a long way to go before my ankle  injury is fully healed, but we're finally seeing improvements. So much to be thankful for, so many Smiles.  

1. Jake: "You know why I don't like birds? Because they're foul." (fowl)

2. Nicholas, in the middle of the night: "Mommy, can I hold you?"

3. Nicholas: "Zachy, you want to be my bess fwend?"

4. My birthday boy.

5. Jake, making up a joke: "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Jake: "Archibald."
Me: "Archibald who?"
Jake: "Archibald and have no hair?"

6. Nicholas, running into the room with a big smile: "Hi, Mama! Nuffing in my mouf!" (He had just sneaked chocolate from the pantry.)

7. Alyssa, writing a story: "The girl in my story speaks fluent Scottish."

8. Zac's LEGO creation.

9. Nicholas, handing me a LEGO Duplo boy: "He sad. He miss his daddy."
Me: "Aww, he misses his daddy? Do you miss your daddy, too?"
Nicholas, looking out the window: "Oh, where my daddy? I love my daddy!"

10. Zac, making up a joke after eating cantaloupe: "What do you call melon bread?"
Me: "Hmm, I don't know."
Zac: "Cantaloaf."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Magic Stories

Books are one of our favorite things to review. You can learn important facts about history, discover far away places, examine animals and their habitats, find out the step-by-step details of a craft, locate a tasty recipe, and plummet into a fantasy land--all through the pages of a book. 

Because literature is the foundation of our education, I'm always looking for new books to add to our vast collection. The Magic Stories from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series are digital stories, so they won't even take up precious bookcase space. 

Allsaid & Dunn was founded by Kenneth Hodkinson who authored the first Wordly Wise vocabulary book over 40 years ago. He expanded the series to include books for grades K-12 and is well-known for vocabulary development. He also worked with his daughter to launch The Reading Game, an interactive card matching game and accompanying books. We were first introduced to The Reading Game 6 years ago and have been playing it ever since. In fact, I had pulled it out to play with my 5-year-old just days before learning about The Magic Stories a month or so ago. Knowing how much we enjoy that game, I was excited to use this follow-up resource, as well. 

The Magic Stories reading program contains a set of 6 books that are written at a 2nd-3rd grade level: 
  • The Magic Hole
  • The Magic Ax
  • The Magic Joke
  • The Magic Hotdog
  • The Magic Boots
  • The Magic Box

The stories are written with most words fitting into the category of simple sight words based on familiar phonetic patterns and word family association. As we all know though, the English language is tricky, and not all words can be easily learned or recognized by an early reader. That's why these stories incorporate some of those more difficult words into their texts. These words are listed as the "Naughty Forty" at the back of each book.    

The program also includes printable flashcards and worksheets for each story. The flashcards correspond to the Naughty Forty words. They print 10 cards on a sheet of paper and list the word in bold along with a sentence using the word. The 4 worksheets for each story follow the same format: maze (answering true/false questions about the story; a correct answer takes the student to a new question, an incorrect answer results in a dead end), finish the sentence (answering questions about the story in own words), imagine (gives the student an opportunity to put himself in the story), finish the story (encourages the student to write a part 2 to the story and gives example beginning paragraphs).    

Included with the exercise worksheets are a couple record keeping pages to help you keep track of your child's progress. The word assessment sheet lists the Naughty Forty words for the book. If your student can read and understand the word, you mark a check on the line. There are spots for testing both before reading the story and after reading it. The running record page gives a 100-word excerpt from the beginning of the story. You can mark any mistakes your child makes while reading and determine their level of accuracy. 

There isn't a suggested schedule or directions included with the program, so you have much liberty with how you use it. I had my second grader use The Magic Stories as part of his daily reading. The short books can be printed, but we chose to read them digitally. My son would read the Naughty Forty words to me, and then read the story to himself. Afterward, he would complete the printed maze, sometimes on his own and other times with me. Then, we would work through the exercise pages together. Instead of requiring him to write his answers, I allowed him to verbally tell me. That time together also gave us the opportunity to expou/nd on his thoughts, especially during the imagine questions. 

The Magic Stories is a new program, so there are a few kinks that still need to be worked out. Things like Naughty Forty lists not matching between the list in the book and the list on the word assessment sheet, grammatical errors, and spelling mistakes are some of the issues. There also isn't an answer key, so the only way to know the correct answers is to read the stories yourself. All in all, it's a good program that will be even better when the mistakes are corrected.*

(*Edited to Add: There are now both instructions and the correct sight word assessment worksheets under the free resources section toward the bottom of the page.)

My boy enjoyed The Magic Stories and laughed at many parts. He told me, "The Magic Hotdog is my favorite, because it's so funny." He is already a strong reader and struggled with only a few words through this program, so he read through the pages quickly and nearly effortlessly. 

If your emerging reader needs some practice, The Magic Stories might be a help to you. 

You can connect with The Magic Stories through the Reading Game on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of The Magic Stories on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 10/27/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week had some ups and downs, but was filled with many blessings. Did you watch for your Smiles this week?

1. Alyssa, one minute after Leighton and all the boys left the house: "I miss them already."

2. Jake: "When sheep get tired, do they count themselves?"

3. We planted potatoes on my brother's farm earlier this year. We weeded the rows a couple times over the summer and then harvested the potatoes this week. The kids helped a lot and worked hard, but they spent more time chasing the chickens and feeding the pigs, ha. I'm happy about the potatoes, but even more thankful for family. 

4. Tyler: "Mommy, truth or dare?"
Me: "Dare."
Tyler: "I dare you to give me a kiss!"

5. Tyler: "Mom, do you remember when I was 5? I'm 5 1/2 now."

6. Zac: "Goodnight, my beloved mother."

7. Jake, making up a joke: "What happens to a bad comedian? . . . He gets pun-ished."


9. Nicholas spent a few nights with my parents. When he saw everyone again, he shrieked with excitement and danced around giving everyone hugs and kisses.  

10. Zac: "I can't wait until Nicky gets bigger so I can tell him how cute he was when he was little."

11. Zac, giving my parents hugs and kisses because we were leaving: "Goodbye." {leans to give me a kiss}
Me: {kiss}
Zac, smiling: "I did that just to get an extra kiss."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Weave Your Word in Me Review

One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is having plenty of time each day to focus on spiritual matters with my kids. Sometimes the teaching is one-on-one--and those times are special, for sure--but my favorite times are when all the kiddos and I sit together and just talk. We can be discussing a simple Bible story or thought and, as the conversation deepens, it twists and turns into so much more. It helps me see into their hearts and helps them to realize that this relationship we have with Christ is real.

Currently, Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1 from Kid Niche Christian Books is the study that has been jump-starting those precious conversations. 

Kid Niche Christian Books provides biblical resources to help kids understand who God is and how to have a meaningful relationship with Him. The books, written by Susan Case Bonner, focus on the teachings of Jesus through the Lord's Prayer. The books for the younger kids are parent-led resources, while the tween-teen books are independent studies. There is also a devotional book designed for families.  

Weave Your Word in Me is a Bible and prayer curriculum for grades 4-6. It contains 36 lessons that teach truths about God through the Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6. Just like Jesus gave us an example of how we are to pray to God the Father, this curriculum also gives an example through a rhythmical prayer that is modeled after the original. The lessons break down this prayer, My Whole Self Before You, line-by-line to teach kids who God is and how to talk to Him. This consumable curriculum comes on thick 70# paper, punched, and read to be placed in a 3-ringed binder. There are 80+ pages that include the lessons, answer key for 6 common Bible translations, both prayers, and instructional materials.

While this study is ideal for tweens to use on their own, it can also be adapted for family devotions. My kids and I are working through this study together at the beginning of our school day. We begin with our own prayer, asking for open hearts, understanding, and wisdom. Then we start our lesson for the day. Normally I would have the kids take turns filling in the blanks, but because I've been recuperating from an injury and schooling from the couch, we've had to rearrange some things. The kids still take turns finding the passages in the Bible and reading the verses, but I am the one who has been writing their answers in the book so I can lead the discussions.

The lessons incorporate fill-in-the-blanks, short answers, true/false, multiple choice, matching, and more. There are definitions, illustrations, and places to draw your own pictures. Each lesson ends with My Prayer, a fill-in-the-blank example prayer to reinforce the truth that was taught.

The beginning lessons are short and can be completed in 5-10 minutes. We tend to spend more time developing the thoughts and deepening the discussion.. About half-way through the curriculum, the lessons are a little bit longer, but are no where near overwhelming.     

The kids and I are enjoying this study. I love that it can be used with our chosen translation without having to adapt it and that it can easily be used independently by a tween or together as a family. It has encouraged some good conversations with my kids and is teaching us all a better way to come before God.

There is much to learn in this curriculum, and it is just part 1 of the study. Not only is there a second part to the actual curriculum, but there are many more opportunities of learning on Kid Niche Christian Book's activities page. There are hymn histories, puzzles and games, crafts, videos, and much more. These resources greatly enhance the curriculum and change it from a simple Bible lesson to more of a unit study.

Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1  is a lovely resource to teach kids to understand God and stregnthen their relationship with Him.

You can connect with Kid Niche Christian Books on the following social media sites:

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

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 10/20/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (7 1/2), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week, Jake made a pumpkin pie almost completely by himself (including the crust!), I had an MRI to determine what treatment I need for my ankle, and all the kiddos spent a night at my parents.

1. Tyler: "I told Alyssa that she's beautiful. And I think that you're beautiful."

2, Zac: "Can I kiss you and hug you?"
Me: "You can always kiss me and hug me, sweetheart."
Zac: "And I always do."

3. Alyssa: "I hate when my teeth itch."

4. Nicholas calling Hershey Kisses "Horsey Kisses." 

5. Nicholas, trying to pull an air-tight lid off a bowl: "I can't open it! It's frozen!"

6. Sometimes it just hits me how blessed I am, like walking into the living room and seeing all these shoes lined up. Each pair of those little shoes represents a piece of my heart. 

7. Me, after discussing Isaiah 6:8: "That's also a song. {singing} Here am I Lord, send me."
Jake: "I used to think it was 'Here am I Lord, Sammy.'"

8. Tyler, about a Lego creation: "I made that because I really love Alyssa."

9. Zac, reading about ocean animals: "These are some really interesting facts."

10. Nicholas: "Look, Mama! Rainbow!"
Me: "That's a nice rainbow."
Nicholas: "No. Pritty rainbow."

11. Alyssa: "I just saw a tumbleweed go down our street!  . . . It was a grocery bag."

12. Jake, pouring sweetened condensed milk: "Man, this is definitely condensed. I mean, how did they get all that in there?"

What made you Smile this week? 

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading Eggs

My two oldest kids used Reading Eggs years ago and loved it. Naturally, I was excited to review it again with my next two kiddos. We're a techie family, so anytime they get extra electronic time, they're happy. And when I tell them they get to play games on the computer for school? They're really excited.  

Reading Eggs is an online program that teaches kids to read. The engaging games and activities make learning fun while still teaching important skills. This program from Blake eLearning was created by an experienced team of teachers, educational writers, animators, and web developers. It focuses on a core reading skills and strategies that encourage reading success. They're so confident in their program, that they're offering a free 4-week trial.

When you sign into your Reading Eggs account, you'll be taken to your family dashboard. From there, you can choose which child (if more than one is signed up) is using the program. The dashboard also gives important stats, like the student's approximate reading level, how many phonics skills and sight words he knows, his progress, which stories he has read, and other recent events he's completed. Because the program is designed for ages 3-7 and reading skills can vary greatly during those years, there is a placement test for the student as soon as he starts.

The lessons are divided into maps. Each map shows a scene from an outdoor playground and includes 10 lessons. Level 1 Starting Out is for absolute beginning readers and covers lessons 1-40, level 2 Beginning to Read is for emerging readers and consists of lessons 41-80, and level 3 Building Confidence is for early readers and covers lessons 81-120. Zac (7) was placed at lesson 111, the first lesson of map 12 (the last map) and Tyler started at lesson 61, the first lesson of map 7.

The lessons are animated and incorporate a variety of options for teaching. There are songs, books, videos, and many games. The games can be so silly: adding hair to monsters, squirting sauce on eggs, catching frogs on lilypads, hopping penguins to ice chunks, adding stamps to letters, and so much more. Reading Eggs uses the synthetic phonic method to teach reading. The lessons teach the student to decode words by sounds and by showing them how to make connections between written text and spoken language. Students are taught graphemes (letters) and phonemes (smallest unit of sound) and then incorporate sight words.

As the students progress through the lessons, they earn golden eggs that can be used to purchase various items. They also unlock places such as My House, Puzzle Park, and Driving Tests. The places and items add a fun element to the program. For instance, the kids can use their eggs to buy furniture for their house, accessories for their avatar, or to play a game. 

There are also printable activity sheets that correspond to each lesson. The students practice tracing and writing the letters, matching the letter sounds to words, coloring pictures, reading sentences and matching them to the appropriate pictures, and much more. The tactile aspect is a good reinforcement which many kids greatly benefit from. My kids have really enjoyed this hands-on part as well.

Last week, Reading Eggs released a brand new set of program guides that specifically support homeschoolers. The guides are free and can be downloaded from the parent dashboard under Bonus Material.

My boys, just like their older siblings, love Reading Eggs! Because the teaching is disguised as fun, the kids don't even realize how much they're learning. They will sit and play for hours if I let them, so we have to set some boundaries so other school work will be accomplished. There are other branches of the program, too: Reading Eggs Junior (ages 2-4), Reading Eggspress (ages 7-13), and Mathseeds (ages 3-9).  There really is so much involved with this program that it would take forever for me to try to explain it all. If you'd like to see how it works in more specific detail, you can try a sample lesson for free.

Truly though, if you have a child who is learning to read or needs a little boost in language arts, set up a 4-week free trial and see what all Reading Eggs has to offer. 

You can connect with Reading Eggs on the following social media sites:

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

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brinkman Adventures

We review all sorts of resources and manipulatives for school. I believe in having many options to keep my little ones learning. But our foundation, the basis of our education is literature. Whether it's fun picture books or engaging fiction or historical biographies, you can be sure there is a fair amount being read in our home every day. While I do believe in the importance of the written word, there are times when it's not feasible to sit down and read a novel. It's times like these that we love to turn on an audio book.

Brinkman Adventures has combined two of our favorite things--audio books and missionary stories--to make a truly entertaining and educational production. My kids fell in love with these stories while listening to season 3 and were thrilled to receive Brinkman Adventures Season 4.

The Brinkman Adventures is an audio drama series and radio show. It's not like a typical audio book that we utilize often as it is not converted from a book, but the episodes weave true missionary stories into the family's adventures to make it a hybrid of sorts. Though the Brinkmans are a fictional family, they are based on and voiced by Ian and Amy Bultman and their 10 children. The drama follows the family across the globe as they confront a witch doctor, "smuggle translated Bibles past guards," ride a flying machine, eat caterpillars, get locked out of the house by a robot, witness to many, and experience heartache and joy. You'll find all this in Season 4:
  • Episode 37: A Paradise Lost
  • Episode 38: Remember Nhu
  • Episode 39: Aisha's Fear
  • Episode 40: Heart Song
  • Episode 41: The Crashed Kitchen
  • Episode 42: Crisis in the Congo
  • Episode 43: The Mysterious Palm Feller
  • Episode 44: War of the Raccoons
  • Episode 45: The Five Guys
  • Episode 46: Toughest Man
  • Episode 47: Cambodian Quest
  • Episode 48: What Brings Us Together
You can take the learning to a deeper level past simply listening to the series. There is an entire section on their site that is filled with the stories behind the stories. You can learn more about the tactics villagers used to kill animals (and the downfalls of them), the power of hippos, how many homes around the world for children who are at risk of being sold as slaves, how forgiveness can win over those who are trying to sabotage you, how one man was able to stay faithful in the midst of extreme persecution, and what really happened the day of the wedding. There is also a ton more information about the real events and how the writers used things in their own lives for inspiration. There are many pictures and videos that enhance the learning, as well. I, personally, have spent much time soaking up these missionary stories.  

They recently came out with curriculum to inspire the next generation of missionaries. It includes a teacher's manual, a CD of season 1, a classroom version of the CD with highlights of the stories, and a resource CD with all the printables for the lessons. 

We've listened to this audio drama driving in the van and for downtime in the house. Immediately, everyone gets quiet so they don't miss anything. The kids were amazed when the Russian officer died after the elderly woman's prophecy and especially enjoyed the story about the king who lost his finger. These amazing accounts are entertaining, for sure, but what makes them even more inspiring is that they are based on modern-day missionary heroes.

The Brinkman Adventures has been a big hit with the whole family. I appreciate that the kids are entertained with wholesome stories, but even more than that, I love that they're learning that there are still true heroes in the world, that God is still using regular people to change the hearts of a sinful world.

You can connect with Brinkman Adventures on their website and Facebook

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

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CTCMath Review

Every child needs to learn math in school--whether they want to or not, ha. I've talked about the math issue in our house before. When my kids understand the concepts they're working on, they like it; when they're confused and struggle, they claim that math is the worst thing ever. That may be an exaggeration, but only slightly. Math is used in our everyday lives though, whether its for your job, in your home, or at the store. That's why it's so important to have a good grasp of understanding. Since math builds on itself, I want to make sure that my kids have a solid foundation now, so that future learning of more difficult concepts is made easier. 

Currently, you can get 60% off + 6 bonus months to the program we've been using, CTCMath Family Membership.

CTCMath was founded by Pat Murray, homeschooling father of 10. Mr. Murray has been teaching math for over 30 years in Australia and used his love of the subject to create this comprehensive online math tutor for K5-12th grade. He believes that teaching should be concise to keep the students' attention, give him ample time for practice, and better help him recall the concepts later. His teachings have reached tens of thousands of people Australia, the United States, the UK, and other parts of the world.

As a member of CTCMath, you have the option to use all the grades and lessons at any time. There are also standard and comprehensive placement tests for each topic for the elementary grades, so you can determine where is the best place or topic to start your child and can change courses at any time. There are over 1,400 tutorials that teach the math concepts step-by-step. Each video is only 4-9 minutes long and incorporated both audio and animation. The tutorials are done in such a way that makes the concepts easy-to-understand. They are colorful, but not flashy or distracting.

After the video tutorial are the interactive questions for the student to complete. The answer format varies from multiple choice, dragging the correct answer to its place, fill in the blank, etc.. Each lesson has about 10 questions for the student to answer, and the stats of those questions are shown at the top. There is a progress bar, grade, and number correct of the total answered. After the questions are completed, a results page comes up so the student can see the results all together. Little green check marks are by the ones that are correct, and red Xs are next to the incorrect ones. From there, the student can complete more questions or head back to the lessons. 

As a parent, I get weekly email reports about my kids' activity log. I can quickly see what each child did each day: the times they logged in and out, which lesson(s) they did, the grade(s) they earned, and any certificates they received. I also get certificates sent to my email that I can print and award to the appropriate student. On the parent dashboard on the site, I can assign tasks to each student, view individual profiles and detailed reports, review diagnostic tests and awards, and preform other various functions.  

Both the student and the parent have access to the grades for each lesson, so it's easy to see at a glance where exactly each student needs practice and where he is excelling. 

I have my 4th grader and 2nd grader using this for their main math curriculum. The can easily complete their lessons on their own and can navigate the site as needed. They are grasping the concepts and retaining the information. My kindergartner is using the program as more of a supplement. He needs help starting each lesson and working through the questions. Since he cannot read well, he takes advantage of the sound icon. He clicks on it to hear the question read aloud. He has a harder time consistently controlling the mouse well, so I often help him click or drag the answers he chooses. After that, the student has to click to submit the answer and then click again to move to the next question.

CTCMath is a wonderful program for my older kids, but not the best option for my little one. The videos do a good job teaching the concepts, even to the younger ones, but the format isn't quite as user friendly to those who are still learning to read and develop fine motor skills.   

Not sure how CTCMath would work in your home? You can take advantage of their Free Trial and get started today.

You can connect with CTCMath on the following social media sites:
You can read more reviews of CTCMath on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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