Monday, August 14, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/28/17

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

Happy Monday! This week, we went swimming at a friend's house, Zac made a vase specifically for his grandma, we bought some books and played at the park. We also moved Nicholas out of a toddler bed into a full-size bunk bed, hoping that he'll finally start to sleep at night. What made you Smile?

1. Jake: "It's kinda cool waking up and seeing what happened to your hair at night. Sometimes this part is sticking out or this one, or it will be sticking up back here. You just never know."

2. Alyssa: "I love taste testing! It's my favorite part of cooking."

3. Zac lost his top 2 middle teeth in the same day.

4. Zac: "Mom, you were the first one I kissed with no teeth!"

5. Jake: "I have a special performance for you!"
He then, with a huge smile on his face, proceeded with a series of armpit farts.
Me: "And what do you call that?"
Jake: "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain in fart form. I thought it was absolutely hilarious!"

6. Zac: "Nicky is the cutest baby on earth! Jesus may have been cuter, but Nicky's the cutest baby on earth."

7. Jake, because the kids couldn't decide who got the last of a treat: "Hey, let's cast lots!"

9. Me: "Do you want to make this into one loaf or two?"
Jake, making cinnamon bread: "Two, so we can have more!"
Me: {blank stare}
Jake: "What? Isn't two better?"
Me: "Tell me you're joking."
Jake: "No, I love it, so of course I want more. Two loaves."
Me: "Turn this one batch of dough into two loaves instead of one?"
Jake: "Right."
Me: "And that's going to be more?"
Jake: "Yes, two is more than one."
Me: "But it's the same amount of dough!"
Jake: {blank stare}

10. Alyssa, reading a poem: "This is weird. It doesn't make any sense."
Me, after reading it: "It's written by the dog. Read it again like it's the dog talking."
Alyssa: "Well, that explains the improper grammar."

What made you Smile this week?
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Friday, August 4, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/14/17

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

Happy Friday! The month of July was crazy busy for our family. This week, the oldest two kids went to junior camp for the first time, family from Texas came for a visit, and we went to the Toledo Zoo with friends. So many memories, so much fun.

1. Tyler, because Zac hadn't come to the table yet for his pb&j lunch: "Zachry, your sandwich is getting cold!"

2. Jake: "Next vacation, can we go sky diving?"
Me: "No!"
Jake: "Why, because it's expensive?"
Me: "That's not why."
Jake: "It's not like it's dangerous or anything. I mean, you're wearing a parachute."

3. Jake: "If at first you don't succeed . . . watch another YouTube video."


5. Alyssa: "Why are so many people scared of the dentist? That's like the silliest thing. The dentist is your teeth's best friend."

6. Tyler, in the aquarium at the Toledo Zoo: "Whoa! That's an ugly fish!"
Zac: "No fish are ugly, because God's creation is beautiful."

7. Leighton, to Nicholas: "Hold your pea-pickin' horses."
Jake: "He has horses?!"
Me: "And they pick peas."
Jake: "What! I don't even have a phone, and he has horses! Those are way more expensive."

8. Tyler, watching Leighton fill water balloons: "Dad, I am not the perfect water balloon target."


10. Nicholas, putting a cup upside down on my head, like a crown: "You pincess!"

11. Jake: "Want to hear the song I just made up?"
{singing to the tune of Oh, How I Love Jesus, verse}
"This is how I brush my teeth.
I brush them twice a da-ay.
I brush them 'til they're white as snow,
And brush the plaque away."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

In the Riegn of Terror

Our family appreciates the privilege of reviewing products as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew. Over the years, we've been introduced to some amazing vendors and have fallen in love with their products. Heirloom Audio Productions is one of our favorites. They have produced some of the best audio dramas we have ever heard and always make our family happy to learn history.

Our schooling is very literature-based. Our family loves read-alouds and will often sit together to read various novels for hours on end. I love reading my kids quality literature and sharing that time with them. Not only does it teach them life lessons, it also introduces them to new vocabulary. Along with that time spent together, we love to incorporate audio books and dramas into our days. Whether we're folding clothes, driving in the van, or just needing some downtime, audio books are perfect. In the Reign of Terror is no exception.

Heirloom Audio Productions has converted multiple historical adventure novels by G.A. Henty into theater-quality audio dramas. Our main curriculum lists many Henty books in the reading list, because they are known for their deep history, rich literature, and exciting plots. So far, my kiddos aren't drawn to the novels themselves, but they are truly captivated by these adaptations. If you close your eyes, you feel as if you're there in the story. Think of it as watching a movie, but with no picture. In fact, each time we turned on the CD, my two-year-old would point to the television, "Turn on, Mama? I watch movie?" The music, the actors, the sound effects--they all make the story come to life. You hear a horse walking on cobblestone streets, the birds chirping, an angry mob shouting, swords clinking, crickets humming, and the glass from a window shattering, and you feel as if you are there in France as one of the characters of the story. It is that realistic. The narrator, Brian Blessed, has a rich, powerful voice that makes the drama exciting to listen to. We were immediately pulled into the story.

The story takes place in the late 1700s during one of the darkest times in history--The French Revolution. It follows the life of Harry Sandwith, a 16-year-old English boy who leaves his homeland to tutor the sons of the Marquis de St. Caux in France. Harry is befriended by the family and becomes like one of their own. Throughout the story, he protected the marquis' daughters from a rabid dog, stabbed a "demon" wolf to death, and escaped an angry mob. He experienced firsthand the terrors and injustices of the times as he watched the people he grew to love imprisoned and put to death, simply because of their heritage. He risked his own life as he tried to reason with the commoners and show them their unlawfulness. In all of this, he trusted in God to guide him. Along with the non-stop action and exciting adventures, there are plenty of morals and Biblical truths taught along the way.

There is a downloadable Study Guide & Discussion Starter that accompanies the story. This complete guide is used to enhance your learning and complement your study. Each section, which correlates to the tracks on the CDs, is  filled with review questions (Listening Well), ideas to get you thinking deeper (Thinking Further), and vocabulary words (Defining Words). There is more information about G.A. Henty, Maximilien Robespierre, and Marie Antoinette; multiple Bible studies that coordinate with the story, many pictures from the times, and much more historical information. There are Expand Your Learning boxes throughout the study that are filled with snippets of information that relate to the period.

There are many more extras that are included as part of the Live the Adventure Club, too. There is the original In the Reign of Terror ebook, the official soundtrack composed by John Campbell, a printable cast poster, an inspirational verse poster, and a downloadable desktop wallpaper. A new thing that I don't remember seeing with other dramas is the inclusion of the official script download. This was extremely helpful during portions of the story that were hard to understand and helped give appropriate information. Also as part of the Live the Adventure Club, you gain access to many more features, such as the community forum, daily motivational quotes and stories, hundred of articles about parenting, collection of rare textbooks from the 1700-1800s, and hundreds of fun activities.  

The 2+ hour audio production is ideal for ages 6-adult, but our entire family enjoyed listening to it. We had a harder time understanding this story than we have with the others. It was a combination of the heavy French accents and the softness of the voices, I think. Normally we can enjoy these while driving, but we realized it took more concentration to follow along because the road noise was a distraction. Even my oldest commented that all the voices sounded similar, so he had a difficult time deciphering which character was speaking.They did, however, enjoy the French words sprinkled throughout the story and laughed at the Frenchman who made funny mistakes when trying to speak English.
We used the study guide questions to review the story and tackle difficult topics. The kids and I especially enjoyed the sections teaching about architecture in Paris in the 18th century, fashions of the day, medical practices, and the guillotine. Of course, the little ones didn't quite understand everything, but it's never too early to introduce quality literature. 
This will be a story that we reference throughout the years. In the Reign of Terror is a wonderful resource to have.

You can connect with Heirloom Audio Productions on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this productions on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

English on a Roll

I am always happy to review new products that might excited my little ones. I'm a huge believer in making learning fun, especially in the younger years, so we incorporate hands-on learning all the time. I know many people don't enjoy learning the nitpicky rules of the English language, but I've always loved it and chose Secondary English as my college major. Though I ended up teaching only one year of high school English classes before coming home full-time, I now have the privilege of passing on the love of the  language to my own kids. But how can learning (or even teaching) grammar be fun for those who don't naturally enjoy it? The English Grammar Teaching Method from English on a Roll is designed to meet that need.

English on a Roll was created by Linda Hopkins Koran in 2001, when she was teaching an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. None of the 25 students spoke English, and most of them were illiterate. After searching for something to help her communicate with the students and finding nothing that worked, she began to develop a program that quickly helped them build sentences in English. English on a Roll has been helping students ever since.   

"Languages are like intricate puzzles, each with unique rules and structure. Once the basic fundamentals of a language are understood, communicating becomes much simpler and more successful.” ~ Linda Hopkins Koran

The English Grammar Teaching Method is a multisensory program that uses color-coded cubes to teach English grammar. By combining visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles, the program becomes a full approach that reduces errors and aids in the understanding of the language. Students learn syntax by manipulating the 40 cubes to create sentences and phrases. Because each cube contains only one type of word, students are able to find the correct choice more easily and learn parts of speech by association. The cubes (along with two blank ones) are divided into the following types and coordinating colors:

  • Pronouns: blue
  • Question Words: green
  • Nouns: dark blue
  • Articles: dark blue
  • Prepositions: dark blue
  • Verbs: red
  • Adverbs: orange
  • Adjectives: purple
  • Conjunctions: black
  • Punctuation: black    

Each cube has one word on a side and contains a "cluster" of similar words. For example, The subject pronouns cube has I, you, he/she, it, we, and they. The common preposition cube has at, for, to, from, with, and of. The cube for all forms of have lists have, has, had, having, and to have. Familiarizing yourself with the cubes and colors will make both teaching and learning easier.

A detailed teaching textbook is included with the cubes. Very little preparation is needed on the part of the teacher, because everything is laid out in the text. Each lesson follows the same format:
  • Prep: shows the needed cubes, pages to copy, and materials
  • Notes & Vocabulary: teaching tips and new vocab
  • Teach the Concepts: detailed teaching instruction using the cubes and handouts
  • Games/Conversations: games to review the new concepts
  • Written Exercises: reproducible exercises for more practice
English on a Roll was written with the classroom setting in mind, but it can easily be adapted to be used one-on-one. I had gotten this set to work with my kindergartner. Since I read that this could be used as young as 5-years-old and those learning to read, I assumed there were letter cubes along with the words cubes. The website clearly states that the curriculum is for grammar, so the misunderstanding is solely my own. The lessons start simply by teaching the pronouns and singular/plural. There is a reproducible with stick figure examples that can be copied if using with multiple students, but we just used it directly in the book. Lesson two has the addition of the Be verbs. The student learns which combinations can be made, such as I am, you are, he is, they are, ect.. The 37 lessons continue in this fashion. Each cube that is added opens up multiple new combinations and teaches new concepts.

Since my boy is a learning reader, we've been taking it slow. I think it's important to have a solid foundation of phonics before introducing too many sight words. I work through the lessons with him, giving him as much help and direction as he needs. He loves playing with the cubes and finding the words he wants to make the appropriate combinations. Even though I personally think this curriculum would be better suited to an English-speaking student who can already read, this truly is written in a way that can gently be used even with non-readers. Of course, it also works well with those who are learning English as a second language.

English on a Roll is a great hands-on product that teaches English grammar in a fun game-like way. If you'd like more detailed information of the curriculum, you can request free sample chapters and watch a demo of an actual lesson.

You can connect with English on a Roll on their Facebook page and website

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

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 7/7/17

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

Happy Weekend! This week Alyssa made french bread for the first time for Kids Cook Monday, Leighton and I spent a date day at Go Ape zip line and ropes course, and we all enjoyed the holiday together.

1. Zac, the day he learned to ride his bike without training wheels: "Whoa! I was riding fast! I was going at least 2 miles per hour--maybe 3!"

2. Tyler, watching fireworks: "Whoa! I saw the steam!"

3. Jake: "What kind of corn is the nicest? . . . Sweet corn."

4. Jake: "Am I your favorite oldest child?"
Me: "You sure are."
Zac: "But who's your favorite child?"
Me: "I don't have one. I have 5 favorite children. But you know what I have only 1 of? I have only 1 favorite husband."
Tyler: "Who? Daddy?"

5. The typical cooperation I get from these two.

6. Tyler: "My hair is sweating!"
Jake: "Your hair is sweating?"
Tyler: "Yes, it's literally sweating!"

7. Alyssa, at the store: "That dress has macaroni straps." (spaghetti straps)

8. Me: "Being quiet is not one of Ty's strong suits."
Zac: "Tyler and quiet have never met."

9. Tyler, watching me apply make up: "Why do you put that on?"
Me: "Because I like it."
Tyler: "But why? It doesn't seem like there's anything special about it."

10. Me: "Tyler, please be careful."
Tyler, scaling the door frame: "I got all the way to the top, and I didn't even break a single leg."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

R.E.A.D. Curriculum Review

There are many benefits and various reasons that our family loves homeschooling. One of my personal favorites is teaching my little ones to read. Reading is a skill that will help them the rest of the lives. Whether for education needs or recreational desires, reading will mostly likely aid the process. And being the one to help them learn their letters and sounds, form early words, and read their first books is exciting to me.

Everyone has a different style, and while I didn't use a curriculum to teach my first three kids to read (but instead relied on skills I learned while teaching first graders in the classroom years ago), some might prefer something that is planned out for them. I admit, I've slacked lately in helping my soon-to-be-kindergartner with his reading skills, so it was nice to have the Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook and R.E.A.D. Review Pack to help. Since The Crafty Classroom did all the work of putting together the materials, all I had to do was print and get busy helping my little one.

The Crafty Classroom offers all sorts of downloadable curricula to help your students, including categories of the alphabet, Bible, geography, math, reading, science, and writing. There is super sequences, color science, ASL alphabet, U.S.A. mazes, writing prompts, The 10 Commandments, and so much more. Just browsing through the options makes me want to buy all the curriculum. It all looks so fun! As a homeschooling family with their own four kids, the Crafty Classroom has designed their materials to make teaching a bit easier.

The Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook (798 pages) is a 36-week curriculum for those who are Ready, Eager, Able, and Determined to READ. It's designed for a 4-day school week and contains everything you need to teach your child to read. The materials cover phonics, digraphs, blends, sight words, grammar, and writing. One word family and two-three sight words are taught each week. Set-up is simple; you print the pages and place in a binder. The only other supplies that you will need are basic classroom items (like crayons, glue, pencil, ect), a composition notebook, two page protectors, dry erase marker, and something to store flashcards.

The format is the same each week with the same activities/pages on their corresponding days. For example, the schedule every Monday looks like this:

  • Calendar & Warm Up
  • I Can Rhyme Chart (reading)
  • Letter Sound Chart (language)
  • Handwriting
  • Playdough Mat (activity/game)
  • Word Cards (sight word)
Other types of worksheets include find & color pages, word mazes, making words with letter tiles, finding the nonsense words, story reader, and more. Each day begins with the calendar and warm up exercises before completing the other pages. These warm ups teach key life skills like first and last name, time, weather, temperature, money, days, months, numbers, and more. The pages can be kept in page protectors so they can be easily erased and completed each day.  

The R.E.A.D. Review Pack is a group of 28 early readers. The books can be used as a stand-alone product, but they were created to correspond to the R.E.A.D. Notebook and promote reading fluency. The two products compliment each other well and help the student put to practice what he's learning. The mini books are very easy to assemble. Each one prints on three sheets of paper, then you cut, stack, and staple.  There is also an instructional video link included in the book. The download is 92 pages.

Each book is based on 4-6 word families and 8-10 sight words, as well as previously learned words. The first page of each one lists the word family review and the sight word review that is covered. There are simple pictures and text on each page.

My little kindergartner is loving using these materials. He's pleased whenever I tell him it's time to do his schoolwork. He really likes the hands-on pages where's there's something to cut and glue, the mazes, and dot-to-dots. He always laughs when we talk about real words and make nonsense words and likes using various liquids to complete the dot painting pages. However, he is not crazy about all the writing pages. He'll usually write the smaller portions with no complaints, but grumbles when there is a page that has line upon line of tracing or independent writing. Since he's still young and building up those hand muscles, I allow him to write each word once or twice and move on. 

The curriculum is working well and helping him to read better, which is evident by the fluency he's reading the review pack. One thing that concerns me though is the number of pages. Don't get me wrong, more for your money is a good thing, but more in every area is not necessarily good. I don't think he needs to be doing 5 worksheets along with the calendar warm up every day. To me, that's a lot of seat work for a little one. Which ones I choose to do each day depends on the amount of effort required and his interest in them.

Another issue with the number of pages is that the book is nearly 800 pages long. Even if I were to be able to print front and back, that's a lot of paper and ink, but because several of the pages have portions that are to be cut, it would be impossible to print on both sides. I could go through and determine which ones I could print double-sided, but that would take up precious time. I've used other curricula where there was a separate workbook with all pages filled and activity book with just the fronts to be cut. Maybe something like this would work here, too.

Making something work for your family is a great aspect of homeschooling. Choosing our pages instead of doing absolutely everything that's offered means that the Learn to R.E.A.D. Curriculum Notebook and R.E.A.D. Review Pack are great options for our home. My little guy enjoys his work and loves having his own books. Most importantly, he's learning to read.

You can connect with the Crafty Classroom on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of these products or of some of the others offered by the Crafty Classroom on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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I have artsy kids, so anytime we can review art supplies is sure to be fun. Almost daily, someone is drawing, coloring, or folding origami creations, but it's not as often that we pull out the super messy supplies. The Rigid Wrap and CulluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit from ACTÍVA Products definitely falls into that get-your-hands-dirty category. Along with the kit, we received the ACTÍVA Products' Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS eBook that's filled with project ideas. 

ACTÍVA: Basic Materials for Creativity is a company that has been dedicated to quality arts and crafts supplies since 1959. They offer all sorts of materials from multiple types of air dry clay to plaster and molds for casting to colored sand and dried floral products and more. Along with their merchandise, their site is full of useful information like instructions, tips, techniques, and safety sheets. 

I knew the kids would be excited to start crafting as soon as the package arrived in the mail. I opened the box and immediately knew something was wrong. There was a white, powdery substance all over the kit and inside the shipping box. I carefully opened the kit to discover an even bigger mess. The CelluClay had a gaping hole in the clear, plastic packaging, causing the powder to cover the contents of the box. The two bags of Rigid Wrap, the instruction and project sheet pages, the remaining CelluClay, everything was a mess. I sent a quick email and received an equally quick reply. Within a few days, I received another kit, sans hole in the bag. Good customer service is always a plus for a company.

We really weren't sure what to expect with these products. I pulled up the free eBook and browsed through the ideas with the kids. My daughter (9 years) immediately was drawn to the bold beads made from Rigid Wrap plaster cloth strips. She loves making bead jewelry, so the ability to design her own beads was very appealing. The book lists skill level, time, materials, directions, and tips for each project. The directions for the beads was a little confusing, so it took some trial and error to figure it out. And though some of the beads were a little rough around the edges or bumpy and misshapen, that didn't stop her from exclaiming dozens of times how much fun she was having. She said, "I just can't stop making these!" Some more practice, I am sure her technique will improve and the bead-making addiction will be even stronger.

The boys, however, were not impressed with any of the suggestions in the book. (They were initially excited when I read "Deadly Dinosaur," but when they saw a friendly brontosaurus-type dino with a smile, they were disappointed.) They also did not prefer the projects that came in the kit either (which were mostly the same as the book and looks like a photocopy of a photocopy and blurry with one page so crooked that half of it was missing). Instead, they each decided on a project that we found while looking through the video demonstrations on the site. I found some old jars, gave the boys trays and bowls of water, and cut strips of Rigid Wrap. They got to work dipping the strips in water, removing the excess liquid, and wrapping the jar. My 7-year-old made his own (which he filled with roses and gave to his grandma, heart melt.) and my 11-year-old  helped his 5-year-old brother make one. (Make sure to check out the video at the end of the post he made of the process and see how easy it is to create your own!)

Both the beads and the vases dried quickly, but the kids didn't get a chance to paint them until the next day. That part was equally fun. I always like watching their creativity and differences as they design their masterpieces. The acrylic paints worked very well on the dried Rigid Wrap.


Next was trying to decide what to make with the CelluClay. This isn't a true clay, but rather an instant paper mache clay made from 100% pre-consumer recycled paper. Since no one wanted to recreate a project idea from the book, we brainstormed ideas and searched the web. It came as no surprise when we settled on a working volcano. (There is actually a volcano idea in the book, but it is a simple sculpture, and honestly, not what we were looking to make.) 

We enlisted the help of my husband to design the structure of the volcano. Then we used the CelluClay to coat it. This is where we ran into problems. There are no instructions whatsoever for the clay in the box. There's nothing on the bag. There's nothing in the eBook. There's not even anything in the description of the product on the website. Everything just says "mix the CelluClay in a Ziploc bag," but nothing is mentioned about amounts or process or anything. He did a search and found that it's recommended to use 32 oz of water to 1 lb of clay (which, I find a bit confusing, since the free eBook calls for 2.5 cups of clay for one of the projects. One is based on weight and the other volume. They're not interchangeable.) Just to be safe, we used 24 oz of water for our 1 lb, because you can always add water if needed, but you can't take away. Our oldest mixed the concoction, but instead of forming into a ball of clay, it stayed as a soupy pulp. It still worked to form the volcano, it was just sticky and messy and not clay-like. I enjoyed the process, but the kids did not like the feel of the goop. 

The volcano took a couple days to dry and the thicker parts finished off with the help of a fan. Next came a coat of spray paint, and our masterpiece was ready to erupt. The kids always enjoy watching the reaction of baking soda and vinegar. The CelluClay softened up again after multiple eruptions, and it seems that the vinegar has slightly eaten away at parts of the volcano, kinda giving it the feel of real lava destroying things in its path, ha. 
All in all, we love these products. I really hope they will improve their directions, both in the Rigid Wrap and CulluClay Quik-Sculpting Kit and in the ACTÍVA Products' Sculpture KIDS CRAFTS eBook. I did eventually find the full instructions on the website, but it took some searching around. I think it would be helpful if they linked to the instruction page on the product page. The Rigid Wrap was simple to use and the kids really enjoyed crafting with it. I'm eager to use the CelluClay again, with some tweaking of the amount of water. The possibilities of these products are endless!  

Here you can watch my 11-year-old create a vase with the Rigid Wrap. Super simple. And though the video is sped up, it only took him 7 minutes in real time to create it. You can see how he chose to wrap the top also, whereas his younger brother decided to leave it uncovered (in the vase and roses picture above). The best part of art is your creativity and uniqueness!

You can connect with ACTÍVA Products on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews with fun projects made by kids on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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