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?"
Me:"No."
Jake: "Can I talk to her until Gramma's phone dies?"
Me: "No."
Jake: "Can I talk to her for 5 minutes?"
Me: "Yes." 

4.

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.

9.

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 jollyliteracy.com 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 jollyliteracy.com on the following social media sites:

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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 jollyliteracy.com 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 jollyliteracy.com is helping me add another strong reader to our family.  


You can connect with jollyliteracy.com on the following social media sites:
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Pinterest



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

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Friday, August 19, 2016

FlipStir Puzzle




Today's review from Enlivenze LLC is another fun one!

My oldest (10 yr) loves mind games and puzzles. He's really good at finding solutions and figuring things out. I always say that his engineer's mind is very much like his father's. He learned to solve the Rubik's Cube a year ago and has a record of 41 seconds. He has since learned to solve other cube-type puzzles, as well. The boy loves a challenge. So, when I had the opportunity to choose a FlipStir Puzzle, I picked the Solar System, specifically because it's a level 2 difficulty.



What is a FlipStir Puzzle? It is a self-contained 3D puzzle. The only instructions are Shake, Stir, Solve! Each puzzle has 10 pieces in a tube along with a maneuvering wand. The object is to jumble all the pieces and assemble the puzzle. Easy, right?

Not so much.

All the kids were thrilled once the puzzle arrived. Within seconds, the younger kids declared it "too hard." That was ok; I chose it for the oldest. But when the oldest fiddle with it for a few minutes and lost interest, I was shocked. There it sat, on the counter, all alone.

My husband came home from work and completed the puzzle after just a few minutes (show off, ha). I teased him the next day when I noticed that the entire solar system was upside down though. Therefore, he didn't truly solve it. Obviously. So, of course, he came home, shook the tube all up, and reassembled the puzzle--right side up this time.

  
The FlipStir puzzle has sat on our kitchen counter for the last month or so. Sometimes, someone would pick it up and jiggle the pieces around, and then set it back down looking like the same jumbled mess. Every now and then I'd ask my son if he was going to try it again. And every time he'd show no interest.

One day last week, I left the room for 5 minutes or so while I went to swap the laundry. I walked back up the stairs and into the kitchen. There my son stood with hand outstretched, holding the completed puzzle.

"What? How did . . . Did you . . . You did it?"

The boy who wouldn't touch the puzzle for weeks, assembled the whole thing in less than 5 minutes.

  
Shortly after he did it, his 8-year-old sister completed the puzzle, too.

At this point, 4 of us can finish the puzzle. None of the little boys (all younger than the puzzle's suggested age of 7) have done it or have really even tried much for that matter. And I can see why. This game can be frustrating! You use the wand to move a piece, get it almost in place . . . and it falls. Or it won't flip. Or everything else is just in your way. My daughter said, "I wish you could open it up so you can get to the pieces." You know what needs to be done, but getting it to do it isn't as easy. It can be frustrating. In a good way.

Of course, my 2 smarty pants have no trouble at all with it. My son has assembled it many times since last week. We timed him only once, while we videoed. It took about 3 1/2 minutes. My husband can do it faster than that. It takes me . . . much longer, ha.

 Here he is assembling it in super speed, even with a little brother jumping all around. 




The tube itself is sturdy. It's strong enough that I've felt comfortable letting even the toddler play with it. The pieces and wand moving around can be a bit noisy and can also leave marks on the clear plastic tube. But if you're not worried about waking a sleeping baby or getting clear pictures for a review, those things probably don't matter anyway, ha. 

Since the Solar System is a level 2 puzzle, the pieces have wavy edges. There are also the options of the Statue of Liberty and the Periodic Table. The level 1 puzzles have straight edges and include Rainbow Colored Pencil and a Tyrannosaurus Rex puzzles.

We've enjoyed our FlipStir puzzle. Not only is it challenging, but it's self-contained, meaning no lost pieces around the house! It's small enough that you could take it in the car for trips or while waiting for an appointment. It would make a great present for Christmas, birthday, or just because. The puzzles encourage focusing, patience, and hand-eye coordination. My kids have already been asking for a level 1 puzzle. With all the benefits of a FlipStir puzzle, I see our family enjoying many of these over the years.
 



You can connect with the company through the following social media links:

FlipStir Puzzle on Facebook and Twitter
Enlivenze LLC on Facebook and Twitter



You can see the other fun FlipStir Puzzles by reading the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids




¡Hola! My kids were super excited about this review from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids. It had been a while since we've formally studied a foreign language together, and they had been asking to learn one.

While there's something so empowering about speaking and understanding a language other than your native one, the learning process can be intimidating. I was pleased when the opportunity came to use the Starter Set 1 for Spanish. You see, I took 3 years of Spanish in high school. By the last year, once we walked in the room, we could speak only Spanish. Not a single word of English could be uttered. I felt confident that I could teach my children, as well, especially with the help of an award-winning program.



The Start Set 1 is a complete 20-week curriculum that contains everything you need to introduce your family to the Spanish language.

  • DVD 1 -- The first 3 videos (of an 8-part series) of the program: Basketballs Aren't for Breakfast, The Little Magic House Part 1, The Little Magic House Part 2.
  • 3 Workbooks -- One workbook to correspond to each video.
  • 3 Teacher's Guides -- One guide to accompany each workbook.
  • Stickers -- Spanish vocabulary words from the first video.
  • Flashcards -- One color-coded set including graphics and vocabulary for each of the videos.
  • Go Squish! (included free for a limited time) -- Spanish Go Fish type of card game.
The videos of Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids are the main teaching tool of the program. Everything is completely in Spanish and preformed by kids (with an adult voice off-screen occasionally). The teaching style is a combination of immersion and visuals with plenty of humor and fun. It teaches words and sentences that are practical and used in everyday life in a fun, easy way.

 
The Teacher's Guide could not be simpler to use. Each lesson is broken down by activities and lists approximately how long it will take to complete. Nearly every day starts with watching a video or portion of a video. There are many learning exercises throughout that both reinforce the vocabulary in the videos and teach additional information about Spanish-speaking countries, like geography, foods, idioms, accent marks, traditions, fun facts, and more. There are also hands-on and gross motor activities.

The guide give specific directions for each activity, but also leaves the lessons open for the flexibility that homeschoolers love so much. It gives alternate suggestions, gives grace to those who might not grasp the language as quickly, and is filled with positive reinforcement.


The workbooks are bold, full-color books. Along with some of that additional information I described already, they are packed with fun activities.

  • matching
  • crossword puzzles
  • word scrambles
  • multiple choice
  • secret codes
  • word searches
  • missing letters
  • fill in the blank
  • creative writing
  • . . . and so much more
Between the impressive variety of activities in the books and the bold color of the pages and pictures, the kids never get bored. The directions are written first in Spanish and then in English. The side-by-side helps the kids understand and decipher words without specifically being taught. There is a complete, matching answer key for the exercises at the back of each book. The books also increase in difficulty just like it does in subsequent videos.

 
To say that my kids love this program would be an understatement. The first day, they wanted to watch all 3 videos. Of course, at the time, they couldn't understand a single word other than hola and gracias. Still, there were smiles and laughter throughout the entire thing. The videos follow a family with 3 boys as they go about their day. The first video takes place during breakfast and teaches words such as apple (manzana), orange (naranja), bread (pan), and eggs (huevos) along with a few more complicated things like where is it? (¿dónde está?) and here it is (aqui está).

The dialogue is simple and stream-lined. Instead of asking "do you want an apple," one brother holds an apple in front of another and simply says, "¿Manzana?" As more vocabulary is introduced throughout the videos, the dialogue becomes more complicated. The words are taught through visuals and repetition, so the kids aren't left confused. My kids were walking around speaking Spanish words the first day I played the DVD.

 
Seriously, my little ones (10, 8, 6, 4) beg to do their Spanish lesson every day. It's fun listening to them walk around the house pointing out what they know and incorporating the language into their conversations. I love when my 4-year-old tells me, "Mommy, I me gusta you." I know it's not a proper translation or combination of the languages, but it shows me that he's understanding and applying it to his own life.

The kids love everything about this curriculum--videos, workbooks, Go Squish! card game, flashcards, stickers, everything. We've had a lot of fun together doing the lessons. The only somewhat negative I can even say is that because the workbook pages are glossy it can be difficult to write on with some utensils and that if you leave the stickers on certain surfaces for a month they can leave a residue that you have to clean (this one is my fault, oops).


The products from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids are quality resources. The Spanish Start Set 1 has been a huge hit in our house. It's not only successfully taught my children the words that are used in the videos in a fun way, but has also encouraged them to learn more on their own. They're often asking me the Spanish equivalent of a word. It's amazing all the information that I've remembered from my high school days just by using these videos. We're also using my Spanish/English dictionary on nearly a daily basis.

We're still working out way through the second video and accompanying workbook. I see us studying Spanish through Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids for a long time. The kids love it; I love it; and it works.   




If you'd like to see how other homeschool families used this product, please read the reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. 


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Friday, August 5, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 7/8/16

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


Happy Friday! This week we enjoyed a long weekend celebrating Independence Day, went to the LEGO store, roasted marshmallows, and had lots of family fun. And in case you missed the extra Smile list that I posted yesterday, you can read it here.


1. Jake: "I set up twelve 4x2s (Legos) like Dominoes. They all fell down except one. It reminded me of Joseph and his brothers." (in the Bible)

2. Zac, playing with Nicky: "That never gets old."
Me: "What?"
Zac, laughing: "The face he's making."

3. Tyler, naked but not wanting to put on clothes: "I'm completely cold."

4.

5. Jake, while discussing requirements for writing reviews: "What! You have to do that, too?"
Me; "Yes, honey, it's like a job."
Jake: "Wow, so you have lots of jobs. You do that (write reviews), you're a mom, a teacher, and you have to cook. You have a complete, full-time job."

6. Zac; "I know why God invented potholes--so you can stop bikes."

7. Zac: "I used to like it when just you, me, and Tyler were awake. Those were some fun times."

8. We spent the day at the Michigan Science Center


9. Tyler: "How do you spell thumb?"
Me: "T-h-u-m-b."
Tyler: "No, how do you spell thumb?"

Me: "T-h-u-m-b."
Tyler: "Thummmmm."
Me:
"T-h-u-m-b."
Tyler: "Thummmmm."
Me: "
"T-h-u-m-b."
Tyler: "No, thummmm."
Me:
"T-h-u-m-b."
Tyler, laughing: But how do you spell thumb?"


 What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Things That Make Me Smile 7/1/16

Jake (10½), Alyssa (8), Zac (6½), Tyler (4), Nicholas (1)


This week was filled with bike-riding, book-reading, science-experimenting, and Smiling. Lots of Smiling.
 

1. Jake: "Aw, it broke. Probably because it's old since you got it when you were a kid."
Me: *gasp*
Jake: "No! You're not old! It's just things that are that old that are old." 

2. Tyler: "Nicky, I like you."

3. Alyssa found a spider in the playroom in the basement. I asked Leighton to be her hero and go down to kill it. Jake told him to grab a cape first, but he wouldn't.
Me, teasing: "How are you going to be her hero without a cape?"
Leighton: "I'm being her daddy."

4. Watching Leighton play with all 5 kids.


5. Tyler: "I wish I was as big as you."
Me: "Why's that?"
Tyler: "So I can sleep on your bed with you all the time." 

6. Tyler: "Nicky is just two layers high." 

7. Alyssa, completing an online Bible lesson from Veritas Press: "You've never done foolish things. This said that even wise people do foolish things."
Me: "That's true. I've done plenty of foolish things."
Alyssa: "Really? I don't think you have."
Me: "Unfortunately, I have. Everyone sins and makes bad choices sometimes."
Alyssa: "Well, in all my 8 years of living, I've never thought anything you did was foolish."

8. Tyler: "Mom, I just learned something: Don't run into anything; you'll fall down."  

9. Nicholas stood at the door for the longest time, watching Leighton cut crown molding on the miter saw.


10. Leighton and I teach the elementary kids during Sunday morning church. They recently memorized and quoted Psalm 100 in the auditorium for the adults. 

11. Alyssa: "I want to do something that you told me not to do so I'm not going to do it."
Me: "Well, that's good."
Alyssa: "But I'm tempted!"


What made you Smile this week?

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