Our Family

Our Family

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Greene Bark Press

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Recently I had an opportunity to review Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again from Greene Bark Press.

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Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again is a board book for ages 3-8 to teach children about crossing the street safely.  The story is about a duck named Wally Waddlewater who makes a card for his grandmother and wants to mail it, but first he has to learn how to cross the street safely.  As he goes through the book he learns how to look left, look right, look left again, and make sure that nothing is in sight (cars, buses, trucks, trains, and elephants.)  The book also covers crossing safely at crosswalks, waiting for the light to change before you cross, railroad crossings, not to run after bouncing balls in the street, and watching and listening for emergency vehicles.

You can purchase Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again for $8.50.

I was interested in reviewing this book because I have 4 children in the 3-8 year old age range and we live out in the country where they do not have to regularly cross the street.  But, I want the children to be aware of how to cross the street properly  for those times that we do go into town.  I thought this book would be a cute way to teach them that they would remember.

When our book first arrived, the children tore open the package and of course wanted me to read it right away.  We opened the first page and something was not quite right.  The book was put together incorrectly and the inside cover was upside down.

A quick email to customer service and a new book was mailed to me the next day.

I used this book as a read aloud for my 2,4,6 and 8 year olds.  We read the story once a day for several days.  The book is a board book which makes  it very sturdy for the age range it is intended for.  It is very bright and colorful.  We loved the illustrations!  The letters are big and bold.  The children thought the character's name, Wally Waddlesworth was really cute.  I really like the way the story is told.  It teaches very important lessons about crossing the street safely but in a way that is fun an engaging for children.  I like that through the story mama duck is there to teach Wally how to do the right thing and has him practice over, and over, and over.  She also offers positive reinforcement when he does listen and pay attention.  I like how the story covers paying attention to traffic lights, "who is the boss of when to cross", and railroad crossings as well.

The children enjoyed having the story read to them.  But did it teach them anything?  Well, when we were going to the library the other day and had to walk across the parking light, my Anthony said, "Don't forget to look left, look right, look left again!"

To see what other Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Homeschool Wrap Up Week 3

We had a pretty good week in our homeschool!  We are still easing into our school year, adding a new subject each week.  Since it is so hot in Arkansas, we have been sticking to working in the afternoons so we can have some time outside in the mornings.

Our first week back we started out with Math.  Our second week we added in IEW PAL for 1st and 2nd and SWI A for 4th and 6th.  This week we added in All About Spelling for 1st, 2nd, and 4th.

I am having Anthony and Christian do All About Spelling Level One together, even though Anthony is a little more advanced than Christian, it gives him confidence, and it saves me from trying to do 3 different levels.  Plus, he though he "knows a million words from Reading Kingdom" (his words) by going through All About Spelling too he will learn the spelling rules.  We try to complete one step per week, unless the children just need more practice with that list of words.  You can read more about my All about Spelling routine here.  I have a white board for each of them as it is much more fun to write spelling words on those than it is to write on paper!  You can buy small ones at Walmart for around $2.50.  We are also using the All About Reading Level one readers and reading the corresponding stories as we complete the spelling lessons.

Alex (4th grade) had started Level 3 last year, so we started up where we left off.  Because the readers are not yet available for Level 3, (but they will be starting September 9th, and the Level 3 set looks fabulous! Click here for more info) we have been reading some readers I bought last year from the Sonlight list.  This week we read Step Into Reading Level 4 Pompeii Buried Alive.

For IEW SWI A we wrote keyword outline and paragraphs on Sea Stars and Oysters.  We are really loving this curriculum!  Nick (6th grade) can do the outlines and paragraphs on his own, but Alex (4th grade) needs a bit of help.  Alex is doing much better than I expected this early in the year.  He is really getting the hang of it, and just needs a bit of help with the writing.  It is hard when you are dyslexic not only to read, but to writte as well.  when you have to concentrate really hard on forming the letters and writing the words, it can make you forget what you want to say.  So he has been doing the outlines on his own and dictating the paragraphs to me to write for him, and that has been working really well.

Christian and Anthony are using PAL writing.  I printed out the workbook and used a comb binder to make it into a book for each of them (I do wish I had bought a different comb binder, mine is NOT a good one!) They are working on writing words correctly in lines and spaces.  They both still form several of their letters incorrectly, so I am going to have them work everyday on the iPad on the Handwriting Without Tears app. They just did an update and added the lowercase letters too!  I was very excited to see that!

For Math we watch the lesson DVD on Mondays and complete one worksheet per day 4 days per week. They do their Math independently unless they are having trouble, or I have to read the word problems to them.  Sometimes if they are having trouble, I have them do the extra 2 worksheets on the concept that are included in the book.  Also Math U See has a worksheet generator on their website that you can print more worksheets for free if you need more than what is included in the book.  We have never needed to use that, but it is good that the option is available!

Miss Lillian (4) has been very busy with her schoolwork!  Not only has she continued working this week on Logic of English, All About Reading Pre-1, and Time For Learning, she got some new review items in the mail this week.  We are reviewing I Can Do Math 2 and Max and Alphie's Adventures 2 from Fundanoodle.  We just got them yesterday and as soon as they came, she had to get started working on them.  These workbooks are really cute and come with stickers!  I had never heard of this company until they came up for review.  Lillian has already completed several pages in both books.

The exciting news that we got this week was that our Homeschool Art Classes will be starting up again next week!  The children can't wait!

Daddy is off on Monday, so we are off too!  Back to school on Tuesday.  We will be adding Bible into our schedule.  Usually that is part of our morning schoolwork and the first thing we start with everyday, but because I had 2 different Bible reviews this summer, we had not been working altogether.  We will be working altogether starting Tuesday, although we are sticking to just afternoons for a little bit longer.

*link to AAR Level 3 is my affiliate link.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend!

Review: Wishing on Willows

Wishing on Willows by Katie Ganshert is a novel about second chances in life.  Robin Price has lost her husband.  Aside from her 3 year old son who she adores, she pours her entire heart and soul into The Willow Cafe, which was a dream she and her husband shared, where she has a sense of purpose and service to her community.  Even though the cafe is struggling and barely hanging on, she loves the work and feels it is what she is meant to do.  Until Ian McKay comes into town with plans to build condos where her cafe stands.  Robin will not give up her cafe without a fight, even when those around her give in.

Ian McKay is just as stubborn as Robin.  His family's business and many peoples jobs depend on his success building condos in Peaks.  But, the more he gets to know Robin, he starts to waiver in his certainty that he is doing the right thing.

Can they both find happiness and a second chance in life even in a situation that seems like somebody has to loose?

I really enjoyed reading Wishing on Willows.  I enjoyed reading about the characters and their lives. Although it is a sad story at times, it is not a sadness that weighs you down, instead it gives you hope.  I enjoyed watching the characters grow, change, and heal throughout the book.  I really thought it was going to have a very predictable ending, but there were some things that surprised me.  I really liked that the author didn't make it seem as though life was perfect for all at the end of the book, but instead made it more like real life with ongoing changes and challenges.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary ebook copy of Wishing On Willows in order to write a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: Alone Yet Not Alone

Recently I had an opportunity to read and review Alone Yet Not Alone by Tracy Leininger Craven.  Alone Yet Not Alone is an inspirational true story of a family who was caught in the cross fire of the French and Indian War.  The story takes place in Pennsylvania and begins right before the Penn's Creek Massacre when many children were taken captive and parents were killed.  Sisters Barbara and Regina Leininger were both taken captive by the Delaware tribe but were later separated.  Driven by their faith in God, and the memory of a song their mother used to sing to them, they know that they are never alone, and hold on to the faith that they will be reunited again.  This 150 page paperback spans a period of approximately 9 years, and was written for ages 8 and up.

Alone Yet Not Alone has also been made into a movie that has been awarded 5 Doves from the Dove Foundation.  The movie will be released into theaters on September 27th.

Bring Alone Yet Not Alone to Your Cityhttp://seatzy.com/main/moviedetail/alone-yet-not-alone
Movie Website: http://www.aloneyetnotalone.com 

First of all, I wanted to mention that although the age range is listed at 8 and up, this is really one of those books that parents should pre read before deciding if it is appropriate for your child.  There is NOTHING graphic or gory in the book, but it does deal with a frightening topic.  Children are kidnapped, families are massacred.  A woman is burned at the stake.  I think I would comfortably say 12 and up for an age range, and any younger than that would definitely depend on the child and the family.  As a parent, it would be a very quick book to pre read.

I enjoyed reading the book.  It is an inspiring and uplifting story and really shows in an amazing way the impact we have on our children.  The Scripture and lessons these girls were taught at a very young age carried them through an absolutely horrifying experience and also had a positive impact on those around them.  It is amazing all of the Scripture that Regina remembered even after years of not hearing the german language and only being allowed to speak in the Indian's language.  I can honestly say that I do not ever remember being taught anything about the Penn's Creek Massacre while I was in school, so it taught me some history as well.

It is fairly short for covering such a long span of time.  I wished at times some more of the gaps had been filled in.  The book focuses mostly on Barbara and her experiences, and doesn't get back to Regina until the end of the book.  It would have been interesting to include her experiences as well.

My 16 year old daughter read Alone Yet Not Alone as well and we both agreed that we are definitely interested in watching the movie when it comes out!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Doorposts

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Since 1990, Doorposts has had a mission to provide Scripture based tools to aid parents in raising godly children by presenting Scripture in an organized an easy to follow format.  They offer a wide variety of products including: Biblical Character Training, Bible Study, For Husbands and Fathers, For Wives and Mothers, For Boys, For Girls, Family Worship Resources, Bible Based Toys and Doll Kits, Bible Based Music, Reformation Day and Other History, and Bible Memory and Catechisms.  Over the last several weeks, we have had an opportunity to use and review Because You Are Strong, A Study of Strength For Young Men.

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Because You Are Strong is a 104 page paperback book.  It is a Bible Study designed for boys ages 12 and up although it can used by girls as well.  This study teaches how to study the Bible while learning about what God says about true strength.  There are 10 different studies with each study being divided into daily assignments that vary in length from 5-20 minutes.  After each study there is a short review study.  Because You Are Strong contains 74 days of study plus 40 more suggested studies.  The 10 different studies are:

1. Strength For the Race: Meditating on Hebrews 10 and 11
2.  Strength With No Limits: A Topical Study on the Omnipotence of God
3.  Strength and Wisdom: A Topical Study in Proverbs
4.  Strength and Temptation: A Character Study of Samson
5.  Strength to be Valiant: A Word Study on "Valor"
6.  Strength in Our Weaknesses: A Verse Study on 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
7.  Strength in the Battle: A Chapter Study on 1 Samuel 17
8.  Strength in Serving Others: A Study on Jesus' Actions in the Gospel of Mark
9.  Strength and Gray Heads: A Verse Study of Proverbs 20:29
10.  Strength in the Faith: A Book Study on 1 John

Because You Are Strong also teaches practical Bible study skills.  Students will learn how to:

  • Use a concordance
  • Study original Hebrew and Greek words that are used in a passage
  • Perform a character study
  • Study a topic in the Bible
  • Understand and use notes made in your Bible
  • Study a verse, passage, chapter, or entire book in the Bible
  • Use free Bible study tools on the computer or other mobile devices

You can view a sample by clicking here.

Other recommended materials include a Nave's Topical Bible and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.  You will also need a Bible that you do not mind marking in and some colored pencils or non bleeding highlighters.

You can purchase Because You Are Strong in paperback format for the regular price of $14.  As of the time of this writing, the study is currently on sale for $12.  You also have the option to purchase as an ebook for $10.

I have been using Because You Are Strong primarily with my 11 1/2 year old son, but also with my 9 year old son listening and participating in some of the question/answers.  We read all of the Scriptures and questions aloud together and record the answers in the book.  We have been working on the study daily during our afternoon school time, finishing one days section per day, four days per week.  The amount of time per day depends on the assignment for that day.  The days when there is Scripture to read, such as study one you have to read chapters 11 and 12 of Hebrews took longer than looking up and defining "strength."  I would say though, that 15-20 minutes per day is a good average amount of time if the student is doing the work on their own, and a little bit longer if you are reading aloud.

First of all, I have to say that I am really enjoying using this study with my boys!  My oldest is usually pretty quiet when doing Bible Study and tends to let others speak for him unless he is really prodded to answer, but he has been doing very well with this study and volunteering answers!  That in itself is a wonderful thing.  I really like the layout of the study, it is simple to do and easy to follow.  Although the study is aimed at young men, it absolutely will apply to anyone who wants to learn more about what the Bible says about strength.  The questions, exercises, and application questions are very interesting and thought provoking.  I love that it is not just a Bible study, but a study of how to study the Bible!  Once the student knows how to do different studies (word study, verse study, topical study etc..)  they will be able to take that knowledge and use it for further Bible studies.  There are many suggestions for further study included in the book, that are quite helpful, but with these study skills, students will not be limited to only those suggestions.  There is so much wonderful, helpful information included throughout the book in "gray boxes."  Notes about notes, Strong's Concordance and how it came to be, definitions from Webster's 1828 dictionary, online tools, and more, plus what kind of study you will be focusing on in that study, and what tools you will need.

One of my favorite things (and something that was quite new to us), was all of the online resources that are listed in the book, complete with step by step tutorials on how to use them!  We do not have a Nave's Topical Bible or a Strong's Concordance (although our Bible has a small concordance), so I was afraid we would have to skip some of the sections.  But, there is a step by step tutorial on how to use these online for free.  It was very helpful!!

Members of the Crew reviewed Because You Are Strong and Beauty in the Heart.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Back to Homeschool Week 2 Wrap Up

We finished off another week!  We started working our way back into a "normal" schedule last week, starting with Math and continuing with some reviews we have been working on.  This week, we added in writing.  I am using IEW PAL with Christian and Anthony, and IEW SWI A with Nick and Alex.  Chelsea is using IEW SWI C. Miss Lillian (4) is using a curriculum we are reviewing called Logic of English Foundations.

So how does this all work in our homeschool?  We have been playing outside as much as possible in the mornings.  We usually start lunch at 11 and are finished by 12.  At 12:00 all of the children break out their Math U See books and get to work.  I help as needed.  Next I work with Anthony and Christian with PAL Writing. When we get finished, they each do Reading Kingdom on the computer.  While they are doing Reading Kingdom, I work with Nick and Alex on SWI A.  When they finish with that, we have been working on a bible study from Doorposts called Because You Are Strong (review posting soon.)  We have all of this finished up by 1:30 or so.

Lillian has been working on her All About Reading Pre-1 Letter pages, and her Kumon Math workbook while I work with the boys.  After I am finished working with them, her and I sit down and do The Logic of English Foundations (review posting in a few weeks.)  We have really been enjoying this program!  When we get finished with that, she has an opportunity to use Time For Learning (review posting in a few weeks) on the computer.

I have given up on putting Emelia down for a nap in the afternoon.  It was taking me over an hour to get her to sleep, she wasn't even sleeping an hour, and then it was taking her forever to fall asleep at night.  So, Miss Emelia gets to have a little bit of TV time in the afternoon while we are doing school work, and then she comes in and colors, draws on the whiteboard, or plays quietly in the playroom.  She has been very well behaved except for that one day that she wanted me to read to her while I was working on SWI A with the boys and she threw a fit when I couldn't, but she's 2 and these things can be expected, especially when you are working on a new routine.

We have been done for the day by 2:00. Next week though, we are also adding in Level One of All About Spelling with Christian and Anthony along with the complimentary readers, and Level Three of All About Spelling for Alex.  Since the readers for Level 3 are not yet available( but should be this fall!!) he will be reading aloud from some readers that we purchased off of the Sonlight list at the end of last year.

*links for All About Reading/Spelling are affiliate links.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Schoolhouse Expo: Last Reminder

I have spent the afternoon and evening folding laundry, fixing supper, and watching the children play outside all while listening to some fabulous speakers at The Schoolhouse Expo!!!

It is not too late to purchase a ticket for the reduced price of $17!

Tomorrow's speakers include:

Ann Dunagan
Andrew Pudewa
Jennifer Courtney
Hope Auer
Tami Fox
Jessica Hulcy
Todd Wilson

Thursday's speakers include:

Terri Johnson
Eli Dahan
Bonnie Rose Hudson
Carol Topp
Deborah Wuehler
Molly Green
David Gibbs III and Christine Fields
Hal and Melanie Young

Friday's speakers include:

Heather Laurie
Rachel Ann Rogish
Becky Schnepf
Davis Carmen
Hal and Melanie Young
Deborah Wuehler
Molly Green
Malia Russel
Dr. Jay Wile and Diana Waring

Be encouraged from the comfort of your own home!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Upcoming Schoolhouse Expo

The Schoolhouse Expo is starting tomorrow!
Schoolhouse Expo

The Old Schoolhouse Expo is a special 5 day event that is scheduled from Aug 19-23rd from 1-8 pm eastern time.  For the $24 cost of a ticket, you will have an opportunity to listen to popular speakers from the comfort of your own home!  And, if you cannot listen during the scheduled time, no worries!  The recordings will be available to everyone who purchases a ticket so you will be able to listen at your leisure.

The list of speakers include:

Ray Comfort
Dean Butler
Barbara Beers
Antony Kolenc
Diana Waring
Hal and Melanie Young
Dr. Jay Wile
Kim Kautzer
Jessica Hulcy
Todd Wilson
Carol Topp
Adam Andrews
Andrew Pudewa
Ann Dunagen
Christine Field
David C Gibbs III
David Stelzl
Davis Carman
Evonne Mandella
Terri Johnson
Tyler Hogan
Andy Harris
Marie Rippel
Jennifer Courtney
Deborah Wuehler
Joachin Fernandez
Heather Laurie
Malia Russel
Eli Dahan

Click here for more information and to purchase a ticket.

Have questions on how the Expo works, click here to access the FAQ page.

I can't wait to hear Dean Butler, Marie Rippel, Terri Johnson, Tyler Hogan, and Deborah Wuehler speak just to name a few!  Andrew Pudewa's talk ,Teaching Boys and Other Kids Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day I have heard before and it is outstanding!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Family Hope Center

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Recently I had an opportunity to review Understanding Child Brain Development from The Family Hope Center.  Located in Norristown, PA, The Family Hope Center is dedicated to helping children with special needs and their families. They believe that most developmental conditions are caused by specific injuries to the brain and work with families to pinpoint the location of the brain that was injured and develop and individual treatment plan.  Their purpose is to help you and your family improve your child's capacities and quality of life.

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For parents and caregivers of children of any age and ability, Understanding Child Brain Development features the director and vice director of The Family Hope Center, Matthew and Carol Newell.  In this seminar lasting a little over 2 hours, they help parents understand brain function better so they can help their children develop and grow to their fullest potential no matter which end of the brain function spectrum they fall on.  During the seminar you will take a peek into the brain's functions and learn 7 ways that you can start helping your child's brain to function better today.

To order the DVD you can call 610-397-1737 or you can order Understanding Child Brain Development online from IEW  for $19.00.

You can see Andrew Pudewa's introduction to the DVD and why IEW sells it by clicking here.

You can see an except of the DVD here.

As I mentioned above, the DVD is a little over 2 hours long.  It does not have to all be viewed in one sitting though.  You can choose to view the DVD a little at a time by choosing which section you would like to view in the Chapter Menu. You also have a choice of listening in 7 different languages.  The Chapter Menu includes:

Introduction by Andrew Pudewa
Matthew and Carol Newell The Family Hope Center
Child Brain Development-Who's Really Driving
Why Do Brain Dysfunctions Still Exist
The Family Hope Center
The Magnificent Brain
The Sense of Smell
The Sense of Smell in Newborns
The Pons
The Mid-Brain-Creeping
The Cortex
Diagnosis/Treatment at the Family Hope Center
Physiology vs. Pathology
Integrated Therapy
Water and Its Effect on the Human Body

When I was offered Understanding Brain Development as a review, I was very interested in viewing the DVD.  As a mom, how can it NOT benefit us to understand how the brain functions and then be able to better maximize brain function to help our children whatever their age and ability.  I viewed this DVD over the course of 5 days.

 I really like the philosophy of the Family Hope Center, treating each individual as a person and not a disease or a collection of symptoms.  They believe in empowering parents by giving them the information they need to be able to help their children.  Who has more of a vested interest in a child then their parents?  I was fascinated by the information that was presented in the DVD.  It makes so much sense that injuries to the brain are responsible for many conditions and that by pinpointing the area of the brain that was injured they can begin treatments to help the brain heal.  I have for a long time believed that putting babies on their backs was detrimental to their health.  It was amazing to see and hear that confirmed and the reasons why this is true.  I also found the section on Water and Its Effect on the Human Body very fascinating and was very glad that I have gotten rid of my microwave!

It is apparent from the DVD that this was filmed quite awhile ago using older technology.  The sound quality of the DVD is not that great and I had to turn my TV up very loud in order to hear it.  Also, the slides that are being shown on the DVD are not all readable.  Several of them have print that is too small and is very blurry.  But, you can read all of the information that was presented in the DVD with a link to a free companion Understanding Child Brain Development e-book that goes along with the DVD.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Monday, August 12, 2013

First Day Back to Homeschool 2013!

Even though we have been doing some schoolwork all summer (mostly reviews), today was the first official day of our 2013/2014 school year.  I have found that is works out much better for us to ease back into a full schedule.  So we usually start with one subject and gradually increase so that by the week after Labor Day we are back up to a full schedule.  Usually I start off with morning schoolwork, but getting out in the morning and working right after lunch has been going so well for us over the summer, I decided we would start off with afternoon school work.  Today the children all dove into their brand new Math U See books.  Well, except for Christian and Chelsea.  Chelsea started Algebra 2 in January so she is still working through it, and Christian was so excited when his books came a few weeks ago that he has already been doing a math lesson everyday.

Since today was our official start to the new year, I took pictures of each of the children in the same spot we do every year, so I can see how much they grow and change throughout the year.

Chelsea 16 1/2 ,12th grade

Nicholas 11 1/2, 6th grade

Alexander 9 3/4, 4th grade

Anthony 8, 2nd grade

Christian 6 1/2, 1st grade
Lillian 4 1/2, Pre-K
Emelia 2 1/2

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Reading Kingdom

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Reading Kingdom is a fun online reading program that teaches children ages 4-10 to read and write to a 3rd grade reading level.  I first heard of Reading Kingdom when I had an opportunity to review it with Alex in 2011.  Then in 2012 I had an opportunity to review it with Anthony.  Both Alex and Anthony had great success with Reading Kingdom, so I was pleased to have an opportunity to review it again this year, this time with Christian (6.)

Reading Kingdom was created by Dr. Marion Blank, Director of the Light on Learning Program at Columbia University and one of the world's leading experts on reading.  It is the only online program that uses all 6 skills necessary for reading and writing success: sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension.  Reading Kingdom can be used alongside any reading curriculum a child is already using, or as an independent curriculum.

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 Reading Kingdom is designed for children to complete independently after a few sessions of getting used to the program.  Parents are asked not to assist their children because the program is customized to the child and changes based on the child's responses.  The program begins with a getting to know the mouse and keyboard section for those who are not comfortable with the mouse and keyboard.  Next is an introductory assessment to see whether Seeing Sequence or Letter Land is needed.  If the skills survey shows the child needs help with visual sequence they will begin with Seeing Sequence format, if it determines they need additional help with the keyboard they will be taught in Letter Land format.  Next is a skills assessment to see which level the student needs to begin.  There are 5 levels in Reading Kingdom with 6 books in each level.  The first level begins with simple words and increases with difficulty as you move through the levels using a fun, game like format.  All of the words needed to read each book are taught prior to reading the book.  The program will skip words that the child already knows.  Each session takes around 15-20 minutes and it is recommended that you use the program at least 4 days per week.  The length of time it takes to move through each level will depend on the student's progress and how many days a week they work on the program.

Parents can easily see their student's progress by logging in.  They can see exactly how much of the current level and program the child has completed, and whether or not their work in that level needs attention, or is  good, very good, or excellent performance.  Parents also have the ability to increase the response time for the child in the program, or email Reading Kingdom to have the child's level in the program changed. Parents also have the option to have a weekly progress report emailed to them.

To use Reading Kingdom, you need to have a computer with a mouse, and an internet connection.  You need to have a web browser and Adobe Flash Player, a free program.  You can see sample lessons by clicking here, or sign up for a 30 day free trial here.  After the 30 day trial Reading Kingdom costs $19.99 per month for one child or $199.99 per year.  Additional children get 50% off $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.  You can cancel your subscription at any time.

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 I received a subscription for 3 children.  So I am using the program with Alex (9), Anthony (8), and Christian (6.)  Anthony continued where he finished off last year in Level 3.  Alex hadn't used the program in 2 years, so I had him retake the skills assessment and the program placed him in Level 2.  I was surprised it started him that low, but he struggles with reading, and I thought at the very least he could use some review and knew that the program would adjust if he showed that he already knew the words that were being covered. Christian started at the beginning because he had never used the program before.  The program placed him in Letter Land which helps with keyboarding skills, but having quite a bit of experience with the program, I didn't feel that he needed additional practice and I requested (by email) that he begin at Level One.  This request was processed by customer service very quickly and we were all set to start Level One. The boys have been using the program 3-4 days per week for about 15-20 minutes per day.  Anthony and Alex can use Reading Kingdom completely independently, but because Christian had never used it before, and he can be easily distracted I sit with him for each of his lessons.  I did make an adjustment on each of the children's accounts to increase the response time by 50% to give them longer to answer.

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One of the things I like most about Reading Kingdom is that it doesn't just focus on large or difficult words.  It also teaches the little words that children need to know like "the" or "of."  I also like that it teaches writing (in the form of typing of course) correctly complete with capital letter and correct punctuation.  I love the immediate feedback that children get while using the program.  If they get it right, the program congratulates them.  If they get it wrong they are shown what they need to do to get it correct.  I love that you can see at a glance how the child is doing.  Anthony and Christian love earning points and seeing what will happen on their passports.  It is a great incentive to keep them motivated to do Reading Kingdom.  I think the program is fun for kids, but not over the top with a lot of distracting extras or bells and whistles.  We do love the interactive features of the program.  The length of the lessons is the perfect amount of time for the children to learn what they need for the lesson, but not too long that they get bored.

I mentioned above that I sit with Christian because he doesn't always pay attention to what he is doing.  With this program the children need to put in a completely correct answer within the allotted amount of time.  If they are distracted or not paying attention to what they are doing, the program cannot accurately tell what the child knows, so if you have a child who distracts easily, you may want to sit beside them to keep them on track.  Another thing Christian struggles with at times is pushing down the letter key and holding it too long.  If he does this, the program thinks it is wrong.  So I have to remind him to tap the key gently and lift his finger quickly.  Also, one thing I have noticed with my children is that it is important to stay consistent with the program.  We had company come and took several days off.  When we started back up, Christian struggled a bit.  I think it would have been much better if I would have carved out the 15 minutes per day that he needs to do Reading Kingdom to keep him more on track.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Arkansas Homeschoolers Reminder

If you are homeschooling in Arkansas this year your Notice of Intent and waiver must be received (not postmarked) by August 15th to legally homeschool in the state of Arkansas.  To get a paper form, you can stop by your local school board and pick up a form, or print one off from this link.  This year they have given you the option to register online which you can do here.  There is a parent tutorial for registering online here.  The forms are very easy to fill out and only require basic information.  You must fill out every section, but the section on curriculum and schedule does not have to be detailed.  A brief description is all that is required.

Even though it is an option to register online this year, it is said that within three years this will be mandatory and the online option will disappear.  I do not think this is a good thing.  I registered online this year, and although filling out the paperwork was easy, I do NOT like the process at all.  Once you fill out your form, you are sent an email that says your form was submitted, but you must wait to receive another email saying that your form was reviewed and approved before you can be considered legal to homeschool.  Nowhere in Arkansas homeschool law does it say that your forms must be approved to legally homeschool.  All you have to do is submit them.  I do not like the wording of this at all.  A receipt email stating that our forms have been received should be sufficient to be considered legal to homeschool.  And, I submitted my forms weeks ago and never received the approval email.  Also, it has been stated that within three years we will have to submit forms online, but in Arkansas first year homeschool parents have to submit their forms to their local superintendent in person.  I do not understand how they can require you to submit forms online without their being a change in the law.  I hope that changes will be made to the process of submitting our forms online, but until then I will be mailing my forms in rather than submitting them online until we no longer have the option to do so.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Preschool Plans for 2013/2014 School Year

Preschool in my house usually consists of reading great books, arts and crafts, learning through play, and listening in as I work with the older children.  But, Lily (4) thinks that she is a big kid and wants school work like her big brothers and sister.  So I did get some curriculum for her so she will have some schoolbooks that she can work on on her own, and some things that I can do with her.

Writing- Handwriting Without Tears Letters and Numbers workbook and Wet Dry Try iPad app.

Math- Kumon Are You Ready For Kindergarten Math Skills- I don't think it is going to take her long to complete this workbook because she does several pages a day.

Reading- All About Reading Pre-1 - I love All About Reading and their Pre-1 is perfect for preschoolers!  Lily loves the craft pages in the student workbook.  The illustrations in the hard back books are adorable!  I just cannot say enough good things about All About Reading!

Piano- Adventus- I reviewed Adventus (you can read my review here) a few months ago, and Lily loved it! So she has been continuing on with the program.

Lily likes the AAR Craft pages so much that I ordered another book from Kumon My Book of Easy Crafts, that is a coloring, cutting, and gluing craft book that she can work on.

Other Preschool Activities that she likes to do include:

Lacing Activities- I found a cute set of animals and their habitats that you lace together at Mardels for $7.99.

Stringing Beads

Playdough- I found a really cute pack of playdough toys in the $1 bin at Target.  I need to add some other playdough toys to this bin.

Magnet Letters and Numbers-  I bought 2 cookie sheets in a pack at Dollar General for $4 and found a set of Letter Magnets and Number Magnets for $1 each at Walmart.

Cothespin Cups- Plastic Cups numbered 1-10 with a pack of clothespins.  She clips the correct number of clothespins to the cups.

Sensory Play- I made 3 bins.  One with dinosaurs and black beans, one with farm animals and rice, and one with sea animals, water beads, and sea shells.

Math Manipulatives- We have an abacus, which I love because none of the pieces can get lost!  We also have Math U See blocks, and from a review of Touch Math earlier in the year we have Texture Cards, Math Fans, Touch Shapes, and 3 D numerals.  We have several different types of building blocks, including a set of pink legos just for the girls!

All of these activities are on a shelf that she can easily reach on her own, along with construction paper, glue, crayons, scissors, paint and other crafts when she wants to get crafty.

Our Favorite Preschool Apps include:

Wet, Dry, Try

Bugs and Bubbles

Telling Time

Curious George Sunny Safari

*link to All About Reading Pre-1 is my affiliate link.  I only form affiliate relationships with companies whose products I actually use and can recommend.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Notgrass Company

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I had been looking for several months for a good American History curriculum that I could use for the children.  I had looked at several, but none of them had everything I wanted.  I had heard of the Notgrass Company,  but I thought that all of their products were for High School age children.  I was very surprised when they showed up on our vendor list to find out they had an American History curriculum suggested for grades 5-8 but able to be used with younger siblings as well.  I took a look at the America the Beautiful Curriculum Package along with the America the Beautiful Student Workbook and discovered it was just what I was looking for!  I have to say, that after using and reviewing it for several weeks, it has more than exceeded my expectations!!!

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America the Beautiful was designed for students in grades 5-8 (ages 10-14.)  It is more than just a history curriculum.  It is a one year, Christian based American history, geography, and literature course.  There are 150 lessons in the course beginning with God's Wonders that He placed in America even before people lived here, and continuing up to the present through the presidency of Barrack Obama.  The America the Beautiful Curriculum Package includes:

America the Beautiful Part One- This is a hardcover 452 page textbook containing the first 75 lessons starting with life before Europeans and continuing through the Civil War.  In addition to the text, it contains both color and black and white illustrations, and also assignments and activities to be completed for each lesson.

America the Beautiful Part Two-This is a hardcover 572 page textbook containing lessons 75-150 starting with America expanding West of the Mississippi and ending in modern times.  In addition to the text the book contains both black and white and color illustrations and also assignments and activities to be completed for each lesson.

We the People- This is a hardcover 220 page book that contains 150 original journal entries, newspaper articles, advertisements, poems, songs, letters, short stories, speeches, and other historical documents from American history.  Illustrations in this book are black and white.

Maps of America the Beautiful- This is a 61 page paperback consumable book of 30 maps specifically drawn to accompany this curriculum.  There are mapping activities at the end of each lesson and children can refer to maps while reading the lesson.

Timeline of America the Beautiful-  This is a 57 page paperback consumable illustrated timeline of American history from AD 1000 to the present.  Some facts are already written in for the students, and after most lessons the student will add a fact that they learned in that days lessons on the timeline.  The illustrations are in black and white and can be colored if the student would like to color them in.

America the Beautiful Answer Key- A 55 page paperback book with the answers to the Timeline, Lesson Review, Student Workbook and vocabulary assignments.

The 6 books in the America the Beautiful Curriculum Package can be purchased for $99.95.  Components can be purchased separately as well. Extra consumable books can also be purchased if using this curriculum with multiple children.

Also available to go along with the curriculum is:

America the Beautiful Student Workbook - This book was designed for 5th and 6th grade students, but older children (and a little younger) may enjoy it as well.  It is 150 page consumable coil bound book containing cross words, find a word, matching, codes, drawing assignments, and other activities to review what was learned that day.  The Student Workbook can be purchased for $11.95.

America the Beautiful Lesson Review- A 110 page consumable coil bound book designed for 7th and 8th graders, but could also be used for younger children who enjoy the activities.  The book contains daily review questions, literature review questions, and weekly quizzes.  The Lesson Review Book can be purchased for $9.95.

There are 10 works of literature assigned in the America the Beautiful Curriculum.
You can purchase the Literature Package from Notgrass for $59.95 or buy or borrow the books from another location.  The literature selections are:

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Spears
Amos Fortune: Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Brady by Jean Fritz
Bound For Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Blue Willow by Doris Gates
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
Katy by Mary Evelyn Notgrass

So how does it all fit together?  There are 30 units in the curriculum with 5 lessons per unit.  Students complete one lesson per day, but if you find the pace isn't working for you or you want to stretch it out to last longer than a year, you can easily adapt it to fit your schedule. Each lesson has an assigned reading in the text.  At the end of each lesson in the text, the activities are listed including: Thinking Biblically (Bible assignment), Map Study (using the Maps of America the Beautiful book), Vocabulary (words to look up and define), Literature (reading assignment from We the People, assigned Literature book or both), and the Student Workbook or Lesson Review assignments.  Some lessons also include a Creative Writing Assignment. You choose which activities you would like your student to complete.  Length of the lessons will depend on how many activities you choose to complete.  One day per week an optional family activity is also included in the lesson.  Some examples of these activities are: making an Iroquoian Longhouse, making Navajo Flatbread, Pocahontas Museum, creating Colonial Printing, cooking a Plantation dinner, and much more. Assignments are given in the lesson with specific instructions for each activity in the back of the textbook. These activities were designed to be completed with parent involvement.  Each activity has a list of supplies that are needed.

I have been using America the Beautiful with my 9 and 11 year old boys, with the younger children listening in to the readings.  My eleven year old could easily read and complete the assignments without help, but we like to do history as a family so I have been reading aloud the text and literature assignments.  I purchased an extra set of consumables (Timeline, Map, and Student Workbook) for my 9 year old.  After we finish reading aloud from the text and literature assignment Nick and Alex complete the Map, Timeline, and Student Workbook assignments.   My 9 year old is a little younger than the suggested age range and needs a little help at times with the Student Workbook, and filling in the Time Line entries.  We have been completing one lesson per day and it usually takes 30-45 minutes to complete a lesson.

First of all, I have to say that the title America the Beautiful is perfect for this curriculum, because the textbooks are absolutely beautiful!!  Hard cover, high quality, and full of wonderful black and white and color illustrations.  I really did not expect them to be so beautiful!  America the Beautiful truly has every element I was looking for in an American History curriculum!  It is Christian based and I love that every lesson ends with a scripture that applies to that lesson. I love teaching history using historical fiction, but also like to have a text to fill in all of the facts, figures, and other important elements.  America the Beautiful uses both and even goes one better because in addition to great literature ( the literature choices are fantastic!)  and a wonderful text book, it also uses We the People which is a collection of original source documents, letters, songs, speeches, articles and more.  The text is very interesting to read and the illustrations help give a visual understanding of what is being read.  We love making timelines.  I think timelines really help the children not only remember dates but to understand an order of events in history.  The Timeline of America the Beautiful is another beautiful book in this curriculum!  We love the black and white illustrations!  Mapping exercises to teach geography is another element that is important to me in a history curriculum.  We love the Maps of America the Beautiful book and that the assignments help the boys understand where the lesson we are reading took place in relation to other lessons that we have studied.  The boys really like the assignments in the Student Workbook.  These fun exercises help reinforce and review what we discussed in that days' lesson.

Another one of my favorite things about America the Beautiful is that it requires very little teacher preparation!  The only advanced preparation you need to do is decide which activities you are going to assign to your children, and take a look at that week's family activity.  If you choose to do the Family Activity, you will have to buy the necessary supplies to complete it and make time to do it.  The lessons themselves are open and go.  All you have to do is start reading or assign reading to your students if they will be working independently.

I would highly recommend America the Beautiful!!  I am thrilled with this curriculum and look forward to continuing on with it this year.  In fact, I was so impressed with the Notgrass Company that I purchased  Exploring Government to use with my daughter who is a senior this year.

Members of The Crew reviewed America the Beautiful and Draw to Learn.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Bible Study Guide For All Ages

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Bible Study Guide For All Ages  takes children ages 3 through the 6th grade through the Bible at the same time studying some Old and New Testament each year completing the entire Bible in four years.  Students will have an opportunity to learn the big picture of the Bible, study the Bible in depth, and be able to apply to their lives.  I recently had an opportunity to use and review:

Beginner Student Pages
Beginner Time Line
Children's Songs CD Set

Intermediate Student Pages
Bible Book Summary Cards 

The Student Pages guides the student and teacher through the learning experience.  The Beginner Student Pages are for ages 3-K or 1st grade.  The Student Pages are consumable, so you will need to purchase them for each child.

The Beginner Student Pages contain the following sections;

Learn the Basics-tells the teacher which time line page the teacher needs to go over with the student.
Sing and Remember-memory work drill, song that relates to the lesson being studied, long and short term review questions.
Get Active-activity to introduce the application concept to get children excited about what God will be teaching them.
My Bible-every 4 lessons instead of a Get Active section you will find a My Bible section that helps students learn the Bible, identify words, and understand the Old and New testaments.
Discover the Bible-this is the days Bible story/lesson.  The teacher reads the story, starting with the Number one section, then allows the student to complete the activity for that section.  Then the teacher moves on to number two and allows the student to complete the activity for that section, until the teacher has read the whole story and the student has completed all of the activities.
Apply It-The apply it section includes an application verse, coloring page, questions about the picture, questions relating the picture to the Bible lesson, questions relating the picture to the student's life, and an invitation to pray about what they have learned.

You can see a sample of the Beginner Pages by clicking here.

The target age for the Intermediate Student Pages is 3-4th grades, but it can be used with students a little below and a little above that age range.  The Intermediate Student Pages contain the following sections:

Remember It-long term review section
Memory Workout-a variety of drills all teaching general Bible information.
Guess What-provides definition of words and historical information
Discover the Bible-This is the Bible story/lesson.  Students read (or you can read for them) the section for #1 in the Bible and then they complete the corresponding activity.  Then they move on to number 2 until they have read and completed all of the activities.
Time Line-Time Line Activities are included in every other lesson alternating with a map activity
Maps-a map activity is included in every other lesson alternating with a Time Line activity
Get Active-allows students to break away from their lesson and do something fun and active that relates to the lesson
Apply It-Students reread the application verse and apply it to a modern day situation.

You can see a sample of the Intermediate Student Pages by clicking here.

How long a lesson takes to complete will depend on whether or not you choose to complete every section, and how long it takes your child to finish their activities on the activity pages.  Each set of student pages contains 26 lessons.  The Bible is not studied in order, but instead contains sections from both the Old and New Testaments.  Lessons 1-26 has 14 lessons on Joseph, 6 lessons from Daniel, and 6 lessons on Jesus. Student Pages cost $5.95 each.

The Beginner Time Line is used alongside the Beginner Student Pages.  The Beginner Time Line has 34 full color 8.5x11 pictures on sturdy card stock that asks student one question about the picture, teaching them to remember major people and events in the Bible and the order in which they happen.  You can purchase the Beginner Time Line for $24.95.

The Children's Songs CD set contains 90 Bible based a capella songs.All of the songs listed in the Bible Study Guide For All Ages curriculum are on the CD.  These songs are great for memory work, or as a listening CD for children.  You can see the complete list of included songs here. You can purchase the Children's Songs CD set for $19.95.

The Bible Book Summary Cards are large flashcards that help children learn the 66 books of the Bible.  The front side has pictures that represent the main idea of the book of the Bible.  The back side has a short description for the teacher that explains the picture and questions the teacher can ask the student.  The Bible Book Summary cards come in two different sizes.  You can buy either the 8.5x11 full color cards or 11x14 posters that are black and white and can be colored for $24.95.

You can see a sample here.

I have been using Bible Study Guide For All Ages with my 4,6, and 8 year olds.  We have been working on it 2 days per week completing one lesson per day.  Our lessons usually take around 30-40 minutes, but Lily likes to spend more time coloring then the boys do, so she goes back and colors more detail after we finish the lesson.

I was very interested in having an opportunity to review Bible Study Guide For All Ages because I was looking for a Bible curriculum I could use with a wide range of ages.  With this curriculum you can have all of your children ages 3-6th grade all learning the same Bible lesson with age appropriate activities. My three children that have been using the program have really enjoyed it.  They have enjoyed the Bible lesson and the activity sheets.  They like the Children Songs CD.  The Bible Book Summary Cards and the Beginner Time Line Cards are fantastic!  I love the color and the quality of them, and it really helps the children learn the Bible and the books of the Bible.

One of the challenges is that even though you are learning the same Bible story, the lesson are set up differently.  I chose to have my 8 year old do the Intermediate pages because I thought he was too advanced to do the Beginner pages, and although there is a Primary Level in between, it does not match up well with the other levels.  But, because we are doing two different levels, it was a little difficult to get a good flow to our lessons.  I floundered a bit in the beginning because I felt like I was going back and forth between the two instead of feeling like we did the lesson together.  But, we figured out a flow that worked well for us by starting with the Learn the Basics and Sing and Remember activities from the Beginner pages and having Anthony do those with us, then doing the Memory Workout from the Intermediate Pages and have the younger two work on that with us, then moving on to the Discover the Bible section and all doing that together with me reading the Bible Story and telling the younger children their instructions and then giving Anthony his instructions.  After we finish that, I read the Apply it section for the younger two and they can color their sheet while Anthony and I go back and do his Remember It question, Guess What, Time Line or Map.  I really love Bible Study Guide For All Ages, but I do wish that all of the Student Pages had the same format for the entire lesson not just the Bible story, and  changed the difficulty of the activity according to age.

To see what other Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.