Tuesday, October 29, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity Review

Jake (7) struggles with spelling. He writes a page summary of his reading every day. And every day, I read over his work and have to decipher what it says. Generally, I can figure it out because most of his misspellings are simply the word spelled out phonetically (ie dun for done, wut for what.) I can ask him various questions, like what says Ī at the end of a short word (y) and when do you use ck (at the end of a short vowel word) to solve some of the issues, but there are so many sight words that just have to be learned by rote. English is a tough language to learn. That's why I was excited to try a premium membership for VocabularySpellingCity.

VocaularySpellingCity is an online teaching tool for K-12. The award-winning, game-based program focuses on vocabulary, spelling, writing, and language arts. It can be accessed through a mobile app for tablet or smart phone or online via computer and interactive whiteboard. 

Though there are many options available with a free account, the Premium Membership includes much more:
  • Vocabulary, writing, spelling, and language arts activities
  • Access to ALL games and interactive Flash Cards
  • Student progress tracking
  • Automated testing and grading
  • Personalized learning with assignments for differentiated instruction
  • Student logins with no commercial ads

To set up our account, I logged in as the Parent and chose spelling lists for each of my kids. There are so many options for lists! Dolch, geography, science, math, compound, etc. -- and multiple subcategories in each, both for topics and grade level. In fact, there are 50,000 words in the data base and 60,000 sentences. You can also create your own word lists if you already have a weekly list from another source or if there are specific words you want your child to learn. After I narrowed down the lists of words, I created accounts for my kids. From there, you can add assignments to each student. 

There are various ways for the child to review the lists. The Teach Me section reads the word, spells it, repeats it, gives a definition, and repeats it again. The Flash Cards part shows the word on the screen and reads it. The Play A Game portion is definitely the favorite. It is filled with many review-style games like word match, hangmouse, word search, letter fall, word-o-rama, word unscramble, word find, and much more. The Vocab Test shows a definition on the screen and four options. The student reads the definition and the choices and clicks on the answer. The Spelling Test has two parts: practice test and test. The actual test can be completed only once.   

My kids enjoyed learning how to spell using this program. Jake (7) liked to memorize all the words from his list, play a couple games, and take the test that same day. Each time, he scored 100%. I tried to explain to him that he was supposed to spend multiple days reviewing the same words to ensure that he truly learned them. He just thought it was cool that he was able to memorize them so quickly. I didn't want to hinder his excitement, so I allowed him to continue knocking lists off quickly. I did quiz him orally over the weeks in order to cement the spellings in his mind. I also made the lists more difficult to challenge him.

Alyssa (5) felt very grown-up learning her spelling words. Each day, she would get a piece of paper and pencil and write down her words. Then, she would work on the review and games. She learned about 1 list a week. She randomly spells words for me now with a big smile on her face.

We also took advantage of creating our own lists. Both children loved being able to tell me which words they wanted to learn. Jake chose things like blood, Bruce (Wayne), and hardware, while Alyssa opted for baby, girl, and love. I also added words to their lists that I knew they struggled with or needed to learn.     

My little ones have enjoyed using this the past few weeks, and their spelling has improved for sure. VocabularySpellingCity costs $29.99 per year for up to 5 students. If you'd like to try it out first, it's easy to sign up for a free account. They also offer an entire page full of videos to help you along with a teaching resources page.  

Also, you can read more reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 10/25/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5½), Zac (3½), Tyler (1½)

Happy Friday! This week we went to the Red Wings game, my grandparents house, and Family Fun Night at church. We read books, made pies, and had lots of smiles.

1. Zac: "I love you, Erika."
Me, surprised: "What?"
Zac, concerned: "Erika. That's your name, remember?"

2. Jake: "If heat rises, how come there's snow on top of mountains?"

3. Me: "Alyssa, please go get some socks."
Alyssa: "But there are no socks in my drawer."
Me: "There are no socks in your drawer? Why not?"
Alyssa: "Because I dumped them all out to see which ones were slippery on the kitchen floor."
Me: "Ok. So where are they now?"
Alyssa: "Behind the couch."
Me: "All your socks are behind the couch?"
Alyssa: "Yes."
Me: "Why did you put them there?"
Alyssa: "I didn't"
Me: "Who did?"
Alyssa: "I don't know."
Me: "Then how do you know that they're there?"
Alyssa: "I saw them there one day."


5. Jake: "What?"
Me: "Nothing. I was just smiling at your daddy."
Jake: "Put that on your things that make you smile."
Alyssa: "It's already on."

6. Leighton, after the kids had gone to sleep: "Why are you out of bed?"
Zac: "I un-tucked myself in."

7. Zac: "Mommy, am I awesome?"
Me: "Yeah, you're awesome."
Zac: "Yeah, but I'm not pretty."

8. Jake asking his great-grandma if she wanted him to take her for a ride down the hill in the wagon.

9. Zac: "The clock the right. Seven comes after six."


11. Listening to Jake read the other kids a chapter book.

12. Jake: "Let's play a game! Let's see who's the sweatiest! Mom, you be the judge."
Me: "And what does the winner get?"
Jake: "They get to make everyone else smell their armpits!"

13. Jake: "I know what beds are for."
Me: "Sleeping?"
Jake: "No."
Me: "Jumping?"
Jake: "No . . . They're for storing all your toys under when you don't want to put them away. "

What made you smile?
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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Diary of a Real Payne


Our family loves to read together. The kids will sit and listen to me read just about any kind of book. For hours. So to tell you that they enjoyed reviewing this book from Barbour Publishing wouldn't really be saying much. But what if I told you that they begged me to read it every day and would plead for "one more chapter" each time I ended one? Or how about if I mentioned that they told me the book was "awesome!" at least 20 times? Or what if I said that they asked to read the whole thing again as soon as I finished it? Yeah, maybe then you'd understand how much they loved reading Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story.

This fiction book is all about a 10-year-old 4th grader, Emma Jean, or EJ as she likes to be called. She lives in a "boring" town that is too little for her big ideas. EJ is a dreamer. She dreams that she's a race car driver in a big race, a dolphin trainer putting on a show, and a private eye about to solve a case. It's these big dreams that often get her in trouble, like the time she was a hair dresser and got carried away with the scissors on her little brother's hair!   

Each chapter starts with a journal entry written by EJ. The language is typical 10-year-old-talk. She's honest and sincere, frustrated and excited. It's like getting a peak of her innermost thoughts. After the journal, the story is told from a narration point of view. EJ's dad is a pastor, her mom teaches at the elementary school, and her little "space invader" brother is in kindergarten. There's also the eccentric neighbor, the best friend, the better-than-you girl in class, and the misunderstood man down the street. 

The journal portion really makes the story more personal. You find yourself liking who she likes and being annoyed with those who are mean to her. EJ's daydreams are always exciting and portray the fun that can be had in everyday situations. Like a typical child, she doesn't always have a good attitude, but she does have a good heart. There are many teaching moments woven throughout the book.

The majority of the book had us all (yes, me too!) giggling and laughing, but the end was not what I was expecting. It was so moving that I got teary-eyed and my voice caught in my throat. I thought, This is so silly. I can't cry during this fun, happy book! The ending was touching, not in a corny way, but a there-are-still-good-people-in-this-world way.

The book is great for kids ages 8-12, but I read it aloud to my 7, 5, and 3-year-old. They fell in love with EJ's character and often talk about her and her antics throughout the day. The informed me half-way through the book that we have to get book 2, Church Camp Chaos, when it comes out next March. Seriously, they've asked at least 5 times since then if it's March yet! Annie Tipton is a great writer and has produced some dedicated readers. We will definitely be buying more books to read how EJ's adventures continue.    

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story can be purchased for $5.99, however, everything on the Barbour Publishing site is currently 25% off! You can also read a chapter and see for yourself just how endearing EJ truly is.

You can read more reviews of this book on the Schoolhouse Review Blog.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 10/18/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5½), Zac (3½), Tyler (1½)

Happy Friday! It has been a tiring, stressful, sickness-and-injury-filled week. I am thankful for the weekend. Last Saturday, we took the kids to the cider mill for cider and donuts and followed it up with apple picking at my brother's. We have a fun family day planned for tomorrow, too. There are always many reasons to smile.

1. Me, reading: ". . . I heard there's a new jungle gym with a sweet set of monkey bars this year."
Zac: "Ooh, yummy! I want to eat them!"
Jake, disgusted: "Ewe, you want to eat metal? Gross."
Me: "I think he's thinking of monkey bread."
Jake: "O-o-o-oh."

2. Alyssa was able to ride with Leighton in his big work truck to take it back to the yard. A pair of his work gloves was sitting in the center console between them. She is very much like her mommy . . . 
Alyssa: "Daddy, did you know that if you move this glove {points to the top glove} up a little it will line up with the other one?"
Leighton: "Would like me to do that?"
Alyssa: "Well... only if you want to."
Leighton: "Would you like to do that?"
Alyssa: {nods a confirmation, then moves the glove}


4. Zac was ecstatic to be wearing his "camel" pants. (aka camo)

5. Tyler was helping me clean the kitchen. Every time I would sweep the crumbs in a pile, he would scoop them up and drop them on a different part of the floor.

6. Zac, surprised: "It's fall?"
Me: "Yes, it's fall."
Zac: "All day it's fall?"

7. I was teaching the kids that when I'm reading them a story and they need to say something, it's not nice to interrupt. Instead, they just need to raise their hand or move it near me so I see it. When I finish the sentence, I'll stop reading and answer them. One minute after I started reading again, Zac slapped his hand on my leg. I stopped to see what was so important. "What happens," he asked, "if an eyeball gets wet with lava?"

8. Two minutes after I answered the lava question, his little hand was waving frantically next to me . . .
Me: "Yes?"
Zac: "What if your nose gets red and red and red and red and red and red and red and reddish?" 

9. Alyssa: "I'm glad you have only one daughter."
Me: "You do? Why's that?"
Alyssa: "I like it being just you and me." 

10. Jake: "I like homemade stuff better than store stuff. With food, it taste much better, too."

11. Alyssa, sweetly: "Every night when you pray with me, you thank Jesus for giving me to you. That's my favorite part. You're the best mom in the whole world."

What made you smile?

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 10/16/13

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Chess House Review

Growing up, I watched my dad play chess often. My uncle would come over on Sundays and they'd watch the football game and then play chess. I have memories of them sitting at the table, intently playing a game I didn't understand. Oh, I'd play on that board sometimes too. Only my playing was more childish pretend play. Instead of rooks and pawns, they were simply girls and boys, and instead of being on opposite teams, they were friends. The big pressed leather board and metal pieces sat out in the living room permanently. The set saw regular use.   

I did learn to play by the rules eventually, but never really took to the game. While on vacation last year, our resort had a life-sized chess game. It was on that trip that Jake, our oldest, fell in love with the game at 6 years of age. He couldn't get enough of it. He played with his dad. He played with my dad. He played on the iPad. He did not, however, play with me. Nope, not unless I could make the kings and queens get together for tea and crumpets while the babies (obviously the bald-headed pawns) played at their feet. Kidding. Sort of. We didn't even own a real set and his obsession with the game wore off over the course of the year. So, when we had the opportunity to review a real, hold-it-in-your-hands starter chess learning kit from Chess House, I knew his love of the game would be rekindled.

Start Chess Learning Kit:

To say that his love was rekindled is an understatement. He was ecstatic when the box came. I was surprised how big and strong the board is. The odor-free vinyl works perfectly as a mat and then rolls back up to fit in the bag. The plastic pieces are heavy enough to stand firmly, but light enough for kids to use. Our carrying bag is a green camo (also comes in black, green, navy, tan camo), so that is even more exciting. Jake took the set with him when he went hunting a few weeks ago. The bag makes it easy to transport the set while keeping the pieces separated.  

He immediately set up the board. He played with his little sister. He played with his little brother. He played by himself.  And eventually . . . he played with me! I have to admit, I even enjoyed it. (Shh, don't tell!) I actually played 3 games with him that first day alone. It all started because he was showing the 3-year-old no mercy. I had to intercede and help out . . . and it sucked me in. 

After playing about 10 games that day, we watched the DVD. The Pawn Level is the first of 6 training DVDs. It introduces chess essential fundamentals in a clear, accurate, and enjoyable way. Elliot is very experienced, easy to understand, and enjoyable to watch. (Did I really just say a chess DVD was enjoyable?) The 49-minute video is broken into sections:
  • Intro to Chess (board, names of pieces, values)
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • The Queen
  • The King
  • Knight
  • Castling
  • Pawn shields and when to break it
  • Development 
 Even though it's designed so that you can watch the topics one at a time if you so choose, we sat and watched the entire thing all the way through. Elliot's passion of the game is contagious. I found myself wanting to watch the other levels in the series. Not only is his desire to teach kids and adults alike the foundations of chess, he wants to teach "lessons that must be learned if one is to become successful in life, such as the value of perseverance through adversity and the priceless experience of achievement after putting in consistent effort."

We have loved using this set. Ever since learning about castling from the DVD, Jake uses the move as much as possible. (I hadn't even heard of it before watching!) He takes the bag with him all over the house and has played in every room. I wasn't sure at first what I'd think about a roll-up board, but it is perfect. I like that chess is helping the kids learn sportsmanship, to strategize, think ahead, and focus. It's even made me appreciate and enjoy the game. We've watched the video multiple times and played the game even more.   

The set and DVD are good for all ages and can be purchased for $39.99. Chess House offers some pretty cool sets like a giant set, pirates, Civil War, Tang Dynasty, and more! I would love to order one of these, but I'm sure I would revert back to my pretend play days and make the pirates sail a ship on the open seas. If you're looking to order a new set and get overwhelmed by all the great choices, they offer a free chess sets guide to ensure that you make the best choice to meet your needs.      

If you're looking for a new set, to better understand the game, or just want to be able to win against any opponent, Chess House can meet your need.

If you'd like to research some more, you can read additional reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 10/11/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5½), Zac (3½), Tyler (1½)

Happy Weekend! As promised, here are last week's Smiles!

1. Zac, upset: "Alyssa squeezed my neck."
Me: "Alyssa, did you do that?"
Alyssa: "No, I was just giving him a hug."
Zac: "She was trying to hug me dead!"

2. Jake: "Can I eat so many carrots that I turn orange, please?"
Alyssa: "Me too, please!"

3. Zac, while playing Go Fish: "Mom! Alyssa's cheating! She keeps asking for the cards I have."


5. One of the kids saw someone pull up to our house, so the other two went running to the window to watch a lady bring a package to our door. Since she was driving a car instead of the usual brown (UPS) or white (FedEx or UPSP) truck, they were intrigued. I opened the door, picked up the box, and saw that it was my subscription shipment from Amazon. Jake was disappointed, "Finally, something suspicious happens, and all it is is someone delivering my mom's coconut oil! Seriously? Not cool, man. Not cool."

6. Zac, about a bent nail he found: "It looks like a 7!"

7. Alyssa: "Hey, Mom, could you hook me up with something to eat?" 

8. Jake, frustrated because Tyler was getting into everything: "Papa is definitely getting me a rope for my birthday so I can tie Tyler up!"
Me: "I don't think so."
Jake: "No, seriously, he told me."

9. Me: "What do you guys what for dinner tonight?"
Alyssa: "Spaghetti!"
Jake: "But we don't have any chopsticks."

10. Jake was sitting at the table doing math and making the most obnoxious noises.
Me: "Do you have to make those sounds?"
Jake: "Yes."
Me: "Boys--they're so different from girls."
Jake, proudly: "Yeah, we're much grosser."


12. Alyssa finished telling me about something that happened at church.
Me: "So, you had a good attitude?"
Alyssa: "Yes. I made the right decision."

13. Zac: "Pretty! Mommy, I said you're pretty. I will tell you all the day that you're pretty."

14. Zac called me into the bathroom after he had finished. I pulled off the last of the toilet paper and said, "Oh, we're out of toilet paper. I'll have to get another roll." He looked down sadly and said, "I'm sorry I used it all." I looked and saw a pile of it in the toilet. I asked, "Why did you use all that? Did you try to wipe yourself?" "No," he said sincerely, "I wanted to give it a home."

What made you smile this week?

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Things That Make Me Smile 10/4/13

Jake (7½), Alyssa (5½), Zac (3½), Tyler (1½)

Happy Friday! I'm a week behind on my Smiles again. We have many reviews going right now as the year ends for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. School has kept us very busy the past couple of weeks. Good busy, but busy nonetheless. So, here are some of the things that made me Smile two weeks ago. Last week's will be up soon.

Have you been busy, too? What made you smile recently?

1. Jake, making up a joke: "Why didn't the phone work?"
Me: "I don't know. Why?"
Jake: "Because it was covered in foam! Get it?"
Me: ". . . Oh, I get it."
Jake: "But it just wasn't funny?"

2. Zac: "I have butterfly power!"
Me: "Ooh, what does that do?"
Zac: "It makes the bad guys have butterflies all over them."

3. Zac: "Alyssa, want to come play trains with me?"
Alyssa, coloring: "Wait until I'm done. D-U-N. Done."

4. Zac, about Tyler causing trouble: "You should put him in a big box! No, you should put him in jail. That would be good! . . . Aw, I love Tyler. You shouldn't put him in jail. Don't put him in any traps. Just leave him here with us."


6. Watching Alyssa help Tyler put his shoes on the wrong feet.

7. Zac, during dinner {leans over and whispers}: "I love you, Mommy. And I love your shirt. It's so beautiful."

8. Jake: "Sausage comes from pig. Let's get a pet pig!"
Alyssa: "Yeah, and after we kill it and eat the sausage, we can get another one!"

9. Zac, looking at his watch: "It's 100 o'clock."
Me: "Oh, no! I didn't realize it was that late. What should we do?"
Zac: "We should hurry up."

10. Zac, playing pirates and running around the house yelling: "My butt is on fire! My Butt is on fire!"

11. Jake, excitedly, right after waking up: "I finished another Magic Tree House book last night! I was just going to read 2 chapters, but then I thought 'this is getting really good,' so I just finished the book." (He had just started it that night, too.)

12. Jake, making up a joke: "Why was the man red?"
Me: "Why?"
Jake: "Because he read and read and read."

13. Me, after Alyssa told me a story about what happened at church: "So, you had a good attitude?"
Alyssa: "Yes. I made the right decision."

14. Me, whispering: "Mommy, loves you, Zac."
Zac, whispering: "Zachy loves you, Mom."

What made you smile?

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

One Great Purpose

Our family loves read-alouds. I know, if you've read our blog much, you already knew that. The kids love cuddling up with me on the couch and listening to a story come alive. Some days, we'll sit for hours at a time, immersing ourselves in the pages of a book. We love all sorts of books, but my oldest's favorites? The ones he himself will devour? Biographies. He loves reading about the lives of people, knowing that that events actually took place. I knew he especially would love to review Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose.

This book by Janet and Geoff Benge is part of YWAM Publishing's Christian Heroes: Then and Now series. The series relates the stories of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things for the glory of God. They are great role models for kids and adults alike as you read about their faith being tested and how they remained true to God. This book is suggested for ages 10+, but my 7, 5, and 3-year-old enjoyed it just as much as I did.     

I'm sure many of you have heard of Jim Elliot and know some of his basic life story. You may even have seen the movie that came out years ago. That was me. I knew a little. I watched the movie. I was touched by their dedication and devotion to God and sharing His salvation message with His people. But there was a deeper reason I really wanted to read this book: my husband knew Steve Saint (Nate's, the pilot, son.) His father worked for him both in Minnesota and later in Florida. They were friends. It wasn't until Leighton was older that he learned the story. Reading a biography that includes a man who was the father of someone my husband grew up knowing (confusing?) made this book all that more real to me.     

Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose is about just that--his one great purpose. He had an overwhelming desire to bring the gospel to the jungles of Ecuador. The book takes you along his journey traveling to South America, learning Spanish and Quichua languages, building mission stations, watching his work being destroyed by the rains, holding Bible conferences, training converts, and eventually contacting the Auca Indians.We learned what they ate, how they lived, what trials they faced. We saw their unwavering faith even when they faced hardships. We cheered for them when the blessings came and wept during the sorrows.

I admit, I get into my books. I'm always sad at the end of a fiction series because I want to know "how it ends." Just tell me more! I want to know the rest of their lives! I know it's silly. There really isn't any more to know. And I cry. There have been times when I've answered Leighton's phone call while sobbing. He's been concerned and wondered what the problem was. "I'm reading," I'd say, tears pouring down my face. Yes, I lose myself in a good book. But I don't think I've ever cried during a non-fiction book. I mean, I already knew the outcome anyway. But like I said, this book was so real to me, as it should be. There were times when it was difficult to read it aloud to the kids. I had to choke back tears because of what these dear people of God were experiencing, long before that dreadful ending. Here in the comfort of our homes, we can lose touch with the rest of the world. Since we graduated from a Bible college, we have many missionary friends on foreign soil right now, experiencing hardships that are very similar. This book has helped me know how better to pray for them.    

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. Luke 9:24

Elliot and his friends knew the risks involved with coming into contact with the Aucas. They knew that no one ever met one and lived to tell about it. They knew that they were still living in the Stone Age and wanted no part of living in the present. They knew that they were in a vicious cycle of killing each other off. None of those stopped them from following through with God's plan. In fact, that last reason was probably the number one thing that drove them to want to help these people. They wanted the Aucas to understand that there was a better way to live. Teaching them about God's love would change their hearts. There was one quote from the book that truly demonstrates the love these people had for a group they had never met:

"If it came to a choice between losing their own lives and taking the life of an Auca, the missionaries were ready to lay down their lives."
They were more concerned with the bigger picture--someone reaching the Aucas with the gospel--than their own selves. The men may have lost their lives that day, but they paved the way for others to tell of Jesus.

Along with the digital book, we received the digital curriculum study guide. The guide helps to further your study including geography, social studies, history, and world missions, to name a few. It designed to benefit all learning styles, group and individual study, and a wide range of ages.  

From their site, the guide includes:
  • Student Explorations - essay writing, creative writing, hands-on projects, audio/visual projects, arts/crafts
  • Social Studies - reproducible maps, geography, terms/vocabulary, journey tracking, critical thinking
  • Bible Study - scripture memorization, devotional application, spiritual concepts
  • Community Links - meaningful field trips, guest speakers, service projects
  • Related Themes to Explore - missions, current events, life skills, math, government, science
  • Bibliography or Related Resources - books, movies, documentaries, magazine articles, websites
  • Culminating Event - project displays, cultural food, music, and activities, oral presentations

Since the recommended age is 10 and my kids are much younger, a lot of the study guide was a bit advanced for them. We discussed the comprehension questions at the end of each chapter. The first question was always a vocab word (hospitable, elusive, meticulously, dubious, etc..) I'd ask the kids what the word meant. If no one knew (read: if the older two didn't know), I'd use it in a sentence. They'd tell me the meaning after that. I personally loved that part. It's very important to me to read my children rich literature that incorporates vocabulary that is above their level. We made playdough "clay pots," made a collage of things that reminded them of the story, and looked at my Spanhish/English Bible, amongst other things. I fully intend to read this book again with them many years from now so we can partake in the other great activities in the guide. We can make a papier-mâché map of Ecuador or create a brochure advertising an Amazon Excursion or mark cities on an atlas. We can video a mock interview with Jim Elliot, write essay questions, and host and Ecuadorian party. The study guide is filled with activities, projects, and ideas to greatly further your study. 

Both the paper and digital copies of the book can be purchased for $6.99 and the curriculum study guide (paper only) can be purchased for $7.49. We enjoyed these materials immensely. I've already looked at some of the many other books they offer and started drooling over the ones I want. It's not just Christian hero books they offer, they have heroes of history and heroes for young readers, too. In fact, some of my crew mates reviewed a book about George Washington. Not only does a purchase give you quality books at a great cost, it helps support missions around the world.

You can read reviews of George Washington:True Patroit and more of this book on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fundanoodle: I Can Pound!

I was very excited to be chosen to review one of the products from Fundanoodle. With a name that starts with  fun, you know it's going to be enjoyable for the little ones, right? There are so many fun options that it was hard to choose one that we most wanted. Since the older kids kids often receive school products and curriculum geared specifically for them, I knew Zac (3 years) would appreciate getting his very own "school" activity. I chose the I Can Pound! activity block.


Contents include: 
  • 1 foam block (14" x 10" x 2") 
  • 1 hammer 
  • 50 pounding tees 
  • 30 activity pattern sheets

I knew that Zac would love having his own tools and place to create, just like his daddy. I knew that he would love pounding in those nails with his special hammer. I knew he would have lots of fun with his own school task. But this kit serves a purpose more than just fun. Not only does it increase creativity, it helps improve hand stability, paper stabilization, and hand-eye coordination.

The child places the block in front of him, choose one of the pictures, hold it on the block, and pounds in the nails on the dots on the paper, while working on his motor skills. Since the block is made of foam, the nails slide in easily and without making much sound. He can then flip the hammer over and use it to remove the nails again.

All 3 of our kids (7, 5, 3) enjoyed using this. Well, let me correct myself, all 4 of our kids enjoyed using this. There is a reason the kit if meant for kids ages 3+. One day after the older ones finished creating masterpieces, they left all the materials sitting out. Tyler, their 18-month-old little brother, decided it looked like so much fun, that he just had to try it out for himself. How do I know he "played" with it? I found chunks of foam around the house and little bite marks all across the block. Trust me, reserve this set for the I-know-better-than-to-put-this-in-my-mouth crowd.

If your child loves the set as much as mine do, he'd quickly pound his way through the 30 activity pages that are included in the box. Not to worry though, you can freely download extra pounding pages on their site. (My kids even enjoyed pounding on plain paper and directly on the foam to create their own designs.) I had a question about the extra pages and contacted the company. I received a response almost immediately. The employee was very friendly and helpful. We corresponded back and forth a few times, and each time, was very prompt. I am very please with their great customer service. The only negative that I have with this product is that once it is filled with holes, the foam can no longer be used. Now granted, that will take a while to fill. Thankfully, they sell replacement blocks for $9.99 so your child can continue to practice and strengthen skills.

The I Can Pound! activity set costs $29.99 and is part of their orange group (ages 3+/preschool.) Some of the other options in that group include I Can Doodle; I Can Bead, Lace, Rip and Trace; and I Can Do Math. There are many great products all the way through the second grade level. From what I know of this set and what I've seen of the others, I know that my kids would enjoy everything from this company. 

My crew mates had the opportunity to try many of the fun products from Fundanoodle. You can read those reviews on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. 

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