Friday, September 16, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 8/12/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1½)

This week, the kiddos wrote songs for their music class, searched my brother's farm for buried treasures with a metal detector, and spent time with some out-of-town friends. 

1. Jake, sad: "Aw, a new jar of mayonnaise isn't as impressive as a new jar of peanut butter."
2. Tyler, looking at pictures from a few years ago: "That's the baby version of me." 

3. Tyler, watching the Olympic 50m freestyle: "I can swim faster than every people."
Me: "Really? Even though you don't know how to swim?"
Tyler: "Yep!"


5. Tyler calling hymnals "singing Bibles."

6. Tyler, after I held up a shirt for him to wear: "Yes! Aw, that is so cute."

7. Alyssa, eating: "Nicky wants a bite from Jake now."
Jake, playing off of Rock, Paper, Scissors: "Cuteness doesn't beat stomach."
Me: "Love should beat stomach though."
Jake: "Love isn't in this battle." 

8. Zac, after talking about the longest verse (Esther 8:9) and the shortest verse (John 11:35): "What's the mediumest verse in the Bible?"

9. Me, getting ready to go to the store by myself: "Are you guys going to be good?"
Jake: "Is that a rhetorical question?"

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, September 9, 2016

CHSH-Teach Review

Homeschoolers are known for their abundance of printing. We go through paper and ink (and laminating sheets, of course!) like crazy. There are so many resources online to incorporate into your study. Whether you're needing letter formation practice for your kindergartner or a study of Emily Dickinson for your senior, you can find it. But while the resources are accessible, they're not always easy to find. Who has time to search for hours for a book to teach your little one step-by-step to draw flowers when you have children to school and a house to keep in order? That's when a subscription to the CHSH Download Club makes perfect sense.

Christian HomeSchool Hub, or, is a collection of materials to aid in your homeschooling journey. The site was created by Lynda Ackert, a Christian wife, mother, and educator of 20+ years. Because of her passion for teaching and creating educational materials, she began this homeschooling community online. Her motto is "Every child is a Masterpiece!" offers many freebies on their site, like Abraham Lincoln worksheets and US states nomenclature cards, but the bulk of the resources are found their the download club. It boasts over 50,000 pages of educational material. Fifty thousand. That's a lot of homeshooling resources found in one place! Not only that, but the materials are organized in a way that makes it simple to find exactly what you need. Resources are divided by subject, grade, months, organization, and miscellaneous

There is a vast amount of topics that are included, but I will list a sampling.

  • Bible -- verse memorization, flashcards, puzzles, games, sermon notes
  • Languages -- Spanish, French, Italian, American Sign Language
  • Arts, Music, & Crafts -- instruction, drawing, knitting, embroidery, quilting, carpentry
  • Language Arts -- creative writing, handwriting reading, English, grammar, spelling
  • Math -- numbers, time, money, fractions, Roman numerals, multiplication, charts, graphs
  • Science -- experimentation, classification, biology, astronomy, chemistry, ornithology, botany   
  • Social Studies -- map skills, geography, government, US presidents, time periods, civilizations
  • Electives -- architecture, character studies, social issues, safety education, Jewish history
  • Health -- dental health, digestive system, skeletal system, general health, brain/nervous system  
  • Treasures from the Past -- McGuffey readers, literature, poetry, music, home economics
  • Fun Pages -- coloring books, individual coloring pages, word searches, puzzles
  • Lapbooking & Notebooking Units -- living things, people of the Bible, early America

Since is a whole community of homeschoolers coming together, it offers a wide range of not only topics of study, but styles, as well. There are full ebooks, individual worksheets, flashcards, forms, organizational tips, awards, and more. Individual members can upload content to offer to others. This, along with the forums and blog, keeps the community thriving.

I have found so many resources that I want to incorporate into our schooling this year. Because there are full books included in the download club, we can truly deepen our learning of some of the subjects. My oldest is interested in the Learn How to Play Guitar book. My daughter wants to read the American Girls Handy Book published in the late 1800s. The little ones will enjoy the nomenclature cards and flashcards for various subjects.

While I plan to include some of those full books into our days, the past month I've focused more on the individual pages. I print pages for the kiddos to complete during our annual vacation. I always prepare goody bags for each child to keep them busy and happy during the drive.  Each bag contains a folder with fun learning pages (hey, I've gotta be a good homeschool mom and include some learning, right?)

We've been learning Spanish, so I included some of those, like the months of the year, parts of the body, food, and animals. There is also a full Spanish curriculum with teacher's guide along with many other related pages. The kids always like Bible resources, so I printed games from that section. My oldest is interested in learning about the inner workings of the body, so I made sure to add pages that describe body systems. As always, I found some coloring pages to include, too.

The kiddos were excited to find the pages from There was such a variety that it kept them busy and entertained. I, personally, appreciate the variety and ease of use. The site is very well organized and offers so many materials for teaching every grade. I anticipate making good use of our CHSH Download Club membership over the course of this year.

You can connect with on the following social media sites:

You can see how other homeschool families used this subscription by reading the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 8/5/16

 Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! This week we experimented at Maker Faire Detroit, the kiddos had fun playing in rain, and we made many memories.

1. The kids and I were playing Go Squish, a Spanish Go Fish game from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.
Jake: "Alyssa, do you have Grande y Pequeña?"
Alyssa: "No, go squish."
Tyler: "That's because Mom has it!"

2. Tyler, randomly in the middle of church: "Good thing you don't have chest hair, Mom."

3. Me: "Who loves you?"
Nicky: "Daddy!"
Me: "Yes, but Mama! Mama loves you."
Nicky: "Mama. Da-ddyyyy!!!" 

4. Me: "Is everyone ready to go to Gramma's?"
Nicky: "Meeeeee!" 


6. Me talking to Alyssa: ". . . So if it doesn't work then it's pointless."
Tyler: "So, you can't point if it's pointless?"

7. Alyssa, watching me cook: "You don't measure anything? And you always make the best food!"

8. Alyssa: "Can we do that again?"
Me: "Maybe."
Alyssa: "Yay! Maybe's not no."

9. Tyler, coloring: "Yellow and pink make orange. That's creepy."

10. Me, praying: ". . . Amen."
Tyler: "Nicky kept his eyes open!"
Me: "And how do you know that?"
Tyler: "I was peeking a little bit."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

WAY Comes Home Review

I am a firm believe in making learning fun. Kids learn best through play. They need activity and hands-on experiences. HomeSchool Scholastics, an i4 Learning Company must believe the same, because their WAY Comes Home Kit is all about learning about health and wellness in a fun, active way.

The WAY (Wellness, Academics, & You) was designed specifically for elementary homeschool. The resources provided help you teach your child all aspects of health through physical activity and fitness, nutrition and healthy eating, health communications, emotion heath, social skills, and critical thinking skills.

The kit comes with everything you need for an entire unit of study for 3 different age groups.

  • Parent's Guide --  This book contains everything you need to teach the material. It includes detailed lesson plans for each of the 3 levels, including step-by-step instructions, art projects, fun activities, additional resources, and more.
  • Student Journals -- Journaling is a main aspect of the curriculum. It encourages creativity, critical thinking, and language development. The journals have sections for recording personal information, writing reflections, and charting progress. There are blank pages for writing and drawing pictures, but there are also many pages with activities like coloring, marking choices, and more.
  • DVD -- The DVD has video clips that enhance the lessons and motivate the students. Each level has its own clips that match the themes. Each theme has an introductory video that allows the students to meet the characters and establish the personality of each program. There are also physical activity videos. Each "deskercise" segment allows is set up so you can be active and healthy while in your homeschool room, the living room, the kitchen, anywhere.
  • WAY Comes Home to MyPlate -- The food pyramid has been replaced with a practical, life application-based icon called MyPlate. This booklet breaks down the components of MyPlate and explains them in an easy-to-understand way. It takes the five food groups--fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, dairy--explains their nutrition, benefits, examples, and amounts. Charts are included so you can see how much of each group is an appropriate serving for all age levels. 
  • Vocab Cards & Illustrations -- Many flashcards are included. All pages are printed on card stock and provide dashed lines to show where to cut. The vocab cards feature various words to further your healthy journey, like fitness, nutrition, respect, endurance, consumtion, and more. Each word is printed in blank block letters so the student can color them as he chooses. There are also flashcards depicting good choice/poor choice, animals, transportation, and actions. The final illustrations are face masks that can be colored, cut, and attached to string to portray the characters from Health Safari level.
  • Equipment Tools -- Various supplies are needed throughout the lessons. Common household things like scissors and crayons are not included, but instead the kit contains items that are harder to find. It includes a stethoscope, stamp pad, 2 foam balls, 3 small baskets, fulcrum balance scale, glitter, vinyl tape measure, eye chart, plastic eggs, and clear counter chips. 

The curriculum is written for 3 ages levels, each with its own theme. Because it was written for homeschoolers, there are tips and activities to expand each lesson to involve children of various ages. Each theme also has its own colors to make it easy to find the sections throughout the book.
  • Health Safari -- This section is geared towards kids in kindergarten-1st grade. The theme follows Samantha and the Safari Land animals as they promote physical activity, healthful nutrition, and general wellness. The videos are animated. 
  • Me Mysteries -- This level is for 2nd-3rd grades. The detective theme encourages the students to explore everyday health issues through communication skills, physical activity, healthful nutrition, and critical thinking skills. The videos feature kids.
  • Innerspace Adventure -- This module is for the 4th-5th grades. The WAY TEAM helps them learn about personal health and wellness. Students will develop writing skills through journaling and focus on important health issues. These videos also feature kids.

My kiddos range in age from 10 years down to 4-years-old. Since we like to do as much schooling together as we can, I chose the Me Mysteries level to use because it's right in the middle range. This curriculum is jam-packed with information and tips. Each lesson is written in the same format: Parent Prep, Lesson at a Glance, Get Things Ready, WAY Vocab Words, What To Do, Art Attack, Weekends with WAY, Pray/Reflect, WAY More Resources, WAY More Fun.  

The kids and I have enjoyed learning about health through many fun activities. Adding clothespins to paper plates to show inner way and interactive way, exercising and charting our pulse rates, coloring a model of the human heart, balancing the calories we eat with the energy we use by placing marbles on a scale, being detectives and figuring out how germs are spread with the help of glitter are some of the ways we learned.I personally found the acting in the video segments cheesy and a little over-the-top, but the kids enjoyed them. I appreciate all the varying activities throughout the book. Even though we used just the one module for all the kids, we did implement some of the ideas of the other levels, like inspecting our thumbprints and noting cause and effect actions.

The kids' favorite part of the study was the physical activity videos. We had so much fun exercising and getting active! Even the toddler joined in on the fun and was dancing around trying to imitate both the kids on the screen and the kids in our house.

One "extra" that I think is pretty neat is the WAY More Fun sections. We liked reading through the facts and learning fascinating new things. Do you know why apples float, which direction Charles Dickens slept and why, eating which food will burn more calories than you consume, or which activity doubles the number of germs on your fingertips? You can learn all these and so many more with this book.

The WAY kit is great for teaching health and wellness for multiple ages. It's multi-sensory format appeals to every kind of learner and keep them engaged. There are many additional resources that will help you stretch out the learning activities and make this a full health curriculum for your family.

You can connect with WAY Comes Home on the following social media sites:

If you'd like to see more fun through the WAY Comes Home kit, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 7/29/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1½)

Happy Friday! This week we made watermelon jelly, spent a lot of time in the kiddie pool, and made a new batch of play dough.

1. Jake, because the friend he wanted to play with wasn't home: "I'm so bor-"
Me: *face lights up*
Jake: "Nope. Nope, not bored."
Me: "Too bad. I have plenty of chores you could do."

2. Zac, heading to bed: "I'm pretty sure this is going to be one of my best days ever."

3. Jake, because Alyssa had spent the night at my parents' house: "Can I call Alyssa and talk to her for 5 hours?"
Me: "No."
Jake: "Can I talk to her until your phone dies?"
Jake: "Can I talk to her until Gramma's phone dies?"
Me: "No."
Jake: "Can I talk to her for 5 minutes?"
Me: "Yes." 


5. Tyler: "Zachy, do you have a little mouth?"
Zac: "Yeah. So do you."
Tyler: "Yeah, I have a little mouth, and you have a little mouth, but Mom has a big mouth!"

6. Listening to the kids sitting in bed at night, rating my cooking with stars.

7. Zac: "Can we do origami now?"
Me: "Yes."
Zac: "You're the best mom anyone could ever have." 

8. Tyler: "Mama, I have three words for you: I, love, you.


10. Alyssa wearing a fancy party dress and playing with a sword and shield.

11. Zac, whispering in the other room: "Come on! Mom always falls for it!" And then his little face peeked around the corner.
Me: "I always fall for what?"
Zac: "Uhhhhh . . . "

What made you Smile this week?

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Can Do Cubes

This review goes hand-in-hand with the and just2ducks LLC Jolly Phonics and Grammar review that I posted earlier this week. Like I said before, I loved teaching my first grade students in the classroom to read many years ago, and I love even more teaching my own kids at home now. To me, it's one of the most rewarding privileges of homeschooling the early years. Words are everywhere--books, signs, stores, mail, directions, recipes, letters. Whether it's for entertainment purposes or to increase knowledge, reading is an every-day skill. Literature is the foundation of our schooling, so reading well is vital in our family.

I taught my first 3 kids to read without the use of any curricula. My philosophy for little ones is that they learn best through play. I teach letters through manipulatives, puzzles, games, and typical conversations (saying things like, "Do you see that M on that sign?" and "Look! There's a T just like your name.") Once letters and sounds have been learned, we move to blending into words, using the same methods, adding in writing the words on paper or dry erase board. Any time you can get a little one involved in sensory learning, the lesson is fun, inviting, and productive. These Can Do Cubes are perfect for our style of learning.  

The Can Do Cubes set is used to teach synthetic phonics. The approach, as I described above, begins by teaching simple phonemes (sounds), blending them to make words, teaching complex phonemes, and blending those. The set contains many components to complement any synthetic phonics program.

  • Stage 1 Cubes -- 27 1-inch cubes showing one spelling for each of the 44+ sounds that make up the simple alphabetic code.
  • Stage 2 Cubes -- 30 individual 1-inch cubes along with 2 cubes connected with a string (to represent split digraph sounds) showing the spellings for the 175+ sounds of the complex alphabetic code.
  • Handbook for Stage 1 -- Small spiral-bound book filled with information about reading, such as pre-reading activities, explanation of the alphabetic code, encoding, pronunciation chart, notes, and much more.
  • Handbook for Stage 2 -- An identical book to the other, but filled with helpful instruction of the complex alphabetic code cubes, capital letters and punctuation, reading and spelling activities, phonemes charts, and more.
  • Teaching Learning and "Sounding Out" DVD -- An interactive demonstration of pronunciation and sounding out of words presented by Debbie Hepplewhite, synthetics phonics consultant and creator of the Can Do Cubes set.
  • Phonics Chart -- A large chart that explains phonemes, graphemes, and teaching points for each.
  • Word Charts -- Two large charts that list by cube number the words that can be made.   
  • Teacher's Guide and Template Book CD -- Includes online templates and worksheets in PDF for easy printing.

The cubes themselves are made of hardwood and laser-engraved. The Stage 1 cubes each have a small number at the bottom, indicating its placement of learning.  There are 8 different cubes: 6 of number 1 and 3 of numbers 2-8.  Each number cube is the same and contains all of the sounds for the number. For example, all 6 number 1 cubes have the letters s, a, t, i, p, n.

The Stage 2 cubes show the spelling variations for the 44 sounds. For example, one cube shows the different long a sounds: ai, ay, a, ey, eigh, ea. There are also cube for capital letters, punctuation, double letters, and split vowel digraphs. Each cube type is arranged in a way to make it easy to find.

The Can Do Cubes are listed in the order of the Jolly Phonics curriculum, so it made it easy for us to use the two resources together. My 4-year-old is at the beginning stages of reading and is just learning to blend sounds to make words. While he does enjoy sitting at the table and reading simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, he much prefers to "play" with his blocks. The multi-sensory approach works very well for him.

There are many ways in which we use these cubes:
  • I make a sound and he finds the matching letter.
  • I say a word and he finds the letters to make it.
  • I make a word and he reads it.
  • I make a word and he finds the letters to copy it.
  • I put 2 letters and leave a space for another. I say a word and he finds the missing letter.
  • I make a word and he finds all the possible rhyming words.
The possibilities of learning with these cubes are really endless. You can say a word, have the student make it with the cubes, and then write it on paper. Or for even younger kids, you can have them find all the matching letters on the cubes. You could use them in a hangman type game or the child makes a word for you to read. If it involves letters, sounds, or reading, you can use these cubes to do it.

The materials are well-made and fit in the main box, making it easy to keep track of it all. The trays have pull tabs on the sides so you can easily get them out. Even my older kids have enjoyed the cubes, both by themselves and helping their learning-to-reading little brother. I love that the trays list which cubes belong where, especially for those times when the toddler like to dump everything out at once, ha.

If you have a student who is learning to read, struggling with spelling, or just needs a multi-sensory approach, we recommend the Can Do Cubes. 

You can connect with on the following social media sites:


You can see how other homeschool families used these cubes by reading the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Jolly Literacy Review

As a mom, I get to teach my kids all sorts of things. One of my favorite things though is teaching my little ones to read. It was exciting when I taught first grade years ago in a private school and I got to help those students learn to read; how much more exciting it is now being able to help my own children. Hearing them sound out the letters, watching as they recognize the word, seeing their faces light up as they realize they are reading--I love it all!

Not everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about the reading process though. That's why it's important to find a phonics program that works for you. I didn't use any curricula to teach my first 3 kids, but instead used my own methods. My number 4 is now 4-years-old and is ready to begin learning. Since we had the opportunity to review Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar from and just2ducks LLC, I thought it would be interesting to teach him from the beginning with this curriculum.

The Jolly curriculum is meant to be just that--jolly. Happy, cheerful, fun. It was designed with young children in mind and uses a multi-sensory approach. The set includes the following materials:
  • Jolly Phonics Teacher's Book in print letters
  • Jolly Phonics Student Book 1, 2, and 3
  • Jolly Grammar 1 Teacher's Book in print letters
  • Jolly Grammar 1 Student Book
  • Jolly Songs in print letters

The Phonics Teacher's Book is an all-in-one guide book for the three student phonics books. It's filled with tips, how-tos, and the daily lesson plans. Each day's tasks are marked by bullet points with a brief explanation. A word-for-word script is not given, allowing for plenty of flexibility and encouraging your own personality to lead. The book is divided in four sections (comprehensive introduction & explanation of teaching method and lesson guides for students books 1, 2, and 3). Each section is conveniently color-coded on the edges, making it simple to find what you need. 

The Phonics Student Books are the individual workbooks for the student. Book 1 focuses on teaching the main 42 sounds of the English language. They learn to recognize, write, and read. Book 2 provides the student with numerous opportunities to practice reading and writing the sounds they just learned. It also introduces common alternative spellings for sounds, explains capital letters, and teaches some tricky words. Book 3 builds upon the reading and writing skills taught in the first two books. The students gain a greater understanding of alternative letter-sound spellings, teaches more tricky words, and encourages writing independence. All the books are filled with pictures, colors, and many activities to keep the student's interest.

The Grammar Teacher's Book is divided into two parts: introduction to the curriculum & explanation of teaching method and a thorough, structured lesson plan for the course. The curriculum builds on and reinforces the skills taught in the phonics books. It is designed to introduce grammar, teach spelling, improve vocabulary and comprehension skills, and extend phonic knowledge. The format of the lesson plans is the same as in the phonic teacher's book.

The Grammar Student Book is an 80-page student workbook. The pages are thick, colorful, and bursting with grammar activities. It carries over the action exercises from the phonics books and encourages fun with learning. There are pages for coloring, tracing, matching, drawing, dictionary use, dictation, and more.

The Songs Book has 40 original songs that teach the most common sounds in the English language. Each song is set to a familiar children's tune, like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; The Farmer in the Dell;Old MacDonald, and Skip to My Lou. Motions are given to help the child remember the words and make it fun. A CD is also included. 

Since my little guy is just starting out, the very beginning of the lessons was the perfect place for him. The lessons are short, which works out well with his short attention span. Each lesson teaches a new sound through a short story, letter formation, recognition of sound through pictures, and sound practice. By the third lesson, the student is forming his first word. My son knows his letters and sounds, but since this book isn't solely about teaching only the 26 letters of the alphabet, he's already learning about "special sounds" like or, th, oo, and sh.

Although he does know the basic sounds of letters, I hadn't worked on blending those sounds to make words before this point. When we got to lesson 3, he had to combine the sounds he had learned. I was shocked when he simply read at and sat! Allowing simple reading in the beginning of the book was encouraging to both him and me. From then on, he has begged daily to do his books.

We're only about halfway through book 1, but this has been working very well for us. He enjoys the lessons, likes the stories, and has fun acting out the songs. I appreciate the short lessons and the quality of the materials. I am excited about the later books as they really branch out in terms of variety. I think the materials from is helping me add another strong reader to our family.  

You can connect with on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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