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), 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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Friday, October 6, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 10/6/17

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

Happy Friday! This week Jake started an online engineering program for kids, Alyssa had a pretty big accomplishment (#8), and I've had some ups and downs with my ankle injury. Did you Smile this week? 

1. Jake, because I knew what he was getting ready to do: "What! I think she just knows how to read minds."
Tyler: "I think it's because she's a mom."

2. Zac: "Lions are called the king of the jungle, but how come every picture I see of them they're not in the jungle?"

3. Tyler picked a bouquet of flowers for me.

4. Zac: "I itched it."
Jake: "You scratched it."
A minute later . . .
Zac: ". . . when I itched it."
Jake: "Scratched!"
Me: "You know, there are even adults who say that."
Jake, making a funny face and twitching his eye: "I'd better not marry someone who says that. I mean, if she says it, it's going to bother me; but if I tell her, it's going to bother her! Let's just hope for the best."

5. This scene.

6. Zac, excited: "Mom! Can we go to Australia and get a blue-tongued lizard? They say they're easy to handle."

7. Tyler: "Mama, I love you infinity . . . even when you're mad at me."

8. Alyssa read The Fellowship of the Ring.

9. Jake: "Nicky, do you want to go take a nap?"
Nicholas: "Noooooo!"
Jake: "Wow, it's not like I asked if you want to drink poison or something . . . but do you want to drink poison?"
Me: "Jacob!"
Jake, laughing: "Ok, how about sleeping powder?"

10. The handle of a laundry basket cracked, so Nicholas put a piece of tape on it to "make it feel better."

11. Tyler: "Daddy, I have a joke for you."
Leighton: "Ok."
Tyler: "Knock, knock."
Leighton: "Who's there?"
Tyler: "Who?"
Leighton: "Who who?"
Tyler: "Who let an owl in this house?"

12. Jake: "I don't have any hair on my chest. Can I get a chest toupee?"

13. Nicholas had a few small marshmallows for a snack. Leighton put the bag away in the pantry, but a few minutes later, Nicholas was walking through the kitchen trying to open the bag.
Me: "No, you already had enough."
Nicholas, innocently: "I just lookin' at 'em."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Channie's Workbooks Review

Math seems to be a subject that you either love or hate. I have kids in both categories (and sometimes a child who is in both categories in any given day, ha). But no matter your feelings on the subject, it's important to have a good understanding of mathematics and its concepts. We use it all the time, whether we're doubling a recipe, building a piece of furniture, seeing if we have enough money to buy our favorite Lego set, or determining how many days until our birthday. That's why it's important to have a curriculum that works for your family. Sometimes though, a child needs extra help in a certain area. Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks can help with that. And if your child struggles with double digit problems, One Page a Day: Double Digit Math Problem Workbook - 1st to 3rd is what you need.

Chan Bohacheff was at a loss when her son struggled with his handwriting for years. When she couldn't find anything to help him , she decided to create her own visual guide. Not only did his handwriting improve quickly, but so did his attitude. Now, 2 years later, Channie's is a thriving educational brand that can be found in many retail stores across the country. Quality, detail, and innovation have made these American-made products award-winning.

My 2nd grader is my math whiz. He doesn't do it often anymore, but he used to ask us to give him difficult problems to solve in his head, just for fun. I figured these pages might be a good refresher for him.

The worksheets are a simple format. Boxes keep the numbers separate and lined up. So many times--whether it's been my own kids or the 1st graders I taught years ago--I've seen kids get answers wrong because they were confused by misaligned numbers. This design keeps everything neat easy to understand. The booklet starts with simple double digit addition and then adds in simple double digit subtraction. The problems increase in difficulty as carrying and borrowing are included.

Since these pages are mostly remedial work, there are no teaching concepts involved, unless a student needs additional help understanding the process. My son can complete a page a day without any direction from me.  The pages easily tear out of the book, making this an easy option for kids. My boy is skilled in math, so I've encouraged him to use this book as motivation to speed up his solving time. He races to complete each page faster than the day before.

In just 25 problems a day, the One Page a Day: Double Digit Math Problem Workbook - 1st to 3rd helps students achieve accuracy through an organized format and repetition.  

Channie's offers more than just math workbook. Some of the other resources include workbooks for printing (like Quick & Neat Alphabet Pad and My First Letters) and workbooks for cursive (Easy Peasy Cursive).

You can connect with Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks on Facebook.

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

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Super Teacher Worksheets

We were given an Individual Membership to review Super Teacher Worksheets. Even though our schooling is focused around reading and hands-on activities, but do we incorporate worksheets for extra learning and fun practice. My oldest would gladly finish his school career without ever completing a worksheet again, but I have 3 kiddos who love getting their own pages to fill out and color. 

Super Teacher Worksheets is a website devoted to providing teachers with printable worksheets. Not just a few worksheets, mind you, but thousands. Pretty much, if you need a worksheet for a certain topic, they have it. Determining area? Yes. Cause and effect? Yes. Finding letter R words? Yes. Reading thermometers? Yes. Calculating weight on other planets? Yes. Identifying verbs? Yes. Counting by 7s? Yes. The list of topics is impressive. Of course, each topic is filled with many subtopics, as well.  

  • Math
  • Reading & Writing
  • Phonics & Early Literacy
  • Handwriting
  • Grammar
  • Spelling Lists
  • Chapter Books (Literacy Units)
  • Science 
  • Social Studies
  • Holidays
  • Puzzles & Brain Teasers
  • Pre-K & Kindergarten

There is also a Teacher Helpers section that is full of resources to help keep you organized and provide some fun extras. There are dozens of awards and certificates (from reading 25 books to zipping a zipper), crafts (like building a Thanksgiving diorama and creating a cute scarecrow with movable arms and legs), electives (such as learning the parts of a computer or labeling musical notes), and even reminder wristbands (for things like lunch money and field trips).

Along with those aids, there is an entire section dedicated to worksheet generators. You have the option to easily create a worksheet using your own information. You can make bingo, flashcards, crossword puzzles, word searches, multiple choice, matching, short answer, and more. If you can't find what you're looking for already on the site, you can make it yourself quickly and easily with these resources.     

My kids love Star Wars, so I decided to make them a crossword puzzle just for fun. The generator is super simple to use. I filled in the appropriate information (level, title, ect.) and then listed the words I wanted in the puzzle. The crossword was created and printed in just a couple minutes. The hardest part was choosing which words I wanted, ha.      

Another great aspect of this site is the My File CabinetYou can save your favorite worksheets with a click of a button in a digital file cabinet. You can access the file cabinet at the top of the screen. Once inside, you can see all information that pertains to the worksheets: the date it was added to the file cabinet, subject, topic, title, and choose which action you want to take. 

The action symbols match the symbols that appear under each worksheet in the lists: aligns with common core, English and Spanish versions, preview file, and add to file cabinet. 

My little ones have been having so much fun completing the pages I've printed from this site. One of my sons soaks up anything about animals, so I've been giving him all sorts of pages from the animal section, like mazes, scavenger hunts, and short articles with comprehension questions. My daughter is my crafty one, so she's made a scarecrow and turkey and used some of the writing prompts. I have a kindergartner who is enjoying the mini books, dot-to-dots, and letter pages. My oldest, who has never liked worksheets, has found a new favorite: hink pinks. It's actually turned into a good family activity that we've play quite often now, all because of a page I printed from Super Teacher Worksheets. 

We have used so many sections of this site already, and I have plans for even more.There is so much more here than typical worksheets. They do offer a ton of FREE printables that can be found in each category, but a membership provides any worksheet or the ability to make your own that you might possible need. They also add new content every week and update the What's New tab, so you'll always be able to quickly and easily find the additions. These printable online PDFs are a great resource for any teacher to have. 

You can connect with Super Teacher Worksheets on the following social media sites:

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

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