Sunday, December 31, 2017

Things That Make Smile 12/15/17

Jake (12), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (3)

Happy New Year! What a busy, fun, activity-filled month December has been. And while the time was bursting with memory-making experiences, I didn't record all that many quotes. I guess I was too busy enjoying the days! Both this list and the next will be double week posts. I hope you've taken the time to Smile, too.  

1. Listening to Nicholas sing "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas."

2. Jake, looking out the window: "Too bad it doesn't snow chocolate."

3. Decorating the house for Christmas.

4. Tyler, about dinner: "Even when you look at it you know it's good."

5. Celebrating Nicholas' 3rd birthday.

6. Birthday pancakes.

7. Alyssa, about the cake I made for Nicholas' birthday: "It tastes better than it looks--and that's saying something! Mom, you can really work some magic with cake."

8. Watching the kids play in the snow.

9.  Vising my niece and her new baby in the hospital.

10. Making ornaments with the kids.

11. Alyssa read the first book of a trilogy in one day. By early afternoon of the next day, she was beginning the book three. When I was so surprised that she had finished the second book already, she admitted that she woke up in the middle of the night and read half of the book with a flashlight.

12. Nicholas, because I get the hot water from our Keurig: "I want oatmeal with coffee in it."


14. Alyssa's favorite December reading spot.

15. Me: "Do you want to go to Gramma's today?"
Nicholas: "Yes! And go hunting!"
Me: "Go hunting? And how are you going to do that?"
Nichoas: "Because."
Me: "Because why?"
Nicholas: "Because. I want to."
Me: "You want to go hunting at Gramma's."
Nicholas: "Yes! I want Daddy take me!"

16. Nicholas, concerned about the first snow of the season: "It's on the van! What! What we do? . . . Why is it on the road? . . . Oh, no! We need a new car!"

and then 5 minutes later . . .

17. "We need more! How we get more?!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 12/1/17

Jake (12), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week we celebrated Jake's 12th birthday, enjoyed our second game schooling day, and started our Christmas festivities.

1. Nicholas, looking at a picture of a cake: "It's a happy-to-you cake." (Happy Birthday to You song)

2. Alyssa: "I would never want to trade Nicky for anyone."

3. Nicholas, to Zac: "You want to play hiding spot?" (hide 'n seek)

4. Jake and I spent a date day together to celebrate his birthday.

5. Zac: "I'm almost done with the book! This is the chapter before the chapter that's before the chapter that's the last one."

6. Tyler: "I love you, Nicky!"
Nicholas: "Yes, you do."

7. Nicholas, covering his own eyes: "Daddy! You can't see me!"

8. Tyler: "I'm getting too big for these socks. They're too small now because I ate dinner."

9. Jake and his Boston Cream Pie birthday cake.

10. Nicholas: "Can I have another nemnem?" (vitamin)
Me: "No, you get only one."
Nicholas: "Look at my face." {grabs my cheeks, puts his nose to mine, and stares into my eyes} "Look at my face. Pease. I have another nemnem."

11. Me: ". . . Because I'm the mom and you're the boy."
Nicholas: "No, I Nicky!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Saturday, November 25, 2017


I went grocery shopping! 

I know . . . Boring, right?

But when you haven't done much except sit on the couch for nearly 3 months, even the mundane tasks of life seem exciting.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately actually--how your perspective can affect so much. We don't realize all the things we take for granted. You've heard the saying "You don't know what you have until it's gone"? Often we think of that statement applying to relationships and reminding us to appreciate the people in our life, but it can pertain anything. 

Like those mundane tasks.

Now that my ankle is in the process of healing and I'm able to get back to a somewhat "normal" routine again, I realize how the simple things can make me happy. I remember the excitement I felt when I walked from the couch to the kitchen. I didn't have to use my crutches! And the thrill of walking down the stairs to do laundry. Sure, it was a long process of putting both feet on each stair instead of going step-over-step, but I didn't have to scoot down on my bottom and crawl back up on my knees like a baby. I remember the day I was able to stand with the strength and ability to sweep and vacuum the house. And don't even get me started on the joy I feel every time now I get to organize an area of our home that was neglected for 3 months while we were in "survival mode."

Who knew that doing chores and simply walking whenever you want to could bring such happiness?

Too often, I think, we let insignificant things annoy us, cloud our judgment. It's easy to let little things  creep up and affect our attitude if we're not careful. I'm guilty of it, too. But, really, what good can come out of that?

A critical and unappreciative attitude robs you of your joy.

I carried a 3-ringed binder to classes with all my assignments in high school. It had a clear plastic cover that I could slide in a page on the front. Though I changed my decorative accents on the page from time to time, I always kept this quote from an 18th century French writer, Nicolas Chamfort: "The most thoroughly wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed." (See, I was looking for Smiles all those years ago, too, ha.) It doesn't mean that you have to tell jokes or watch comedies every day, but it's a reminder to be intentional in keeping a good attitude. Negative circumstances happen all the time, but how you respond to them is what matters. The more negativity you dwell on, the less joy you find in the simple things.

I've always loved my role as a stay-at-home mom. The cooking, the cleaning, the raising of the kids--it has always been a rich, fulfilling life for me. And then we added homeschooling. And more kids. My responsibilities have multiplied. And somewhere along the way I think I lost a little of my love of caring for our home. I've gotten annoyed by the crumbs and bothered by the mess. Oh, it's not an everyday feeling, but now much more often than before it feels like housework. Chores. Responsibility. Work.

I let the busyness distract me from my joy in serving my family.

"You don't know what you have until it's gone." Yes, thankfully, my family is still here, but my ability to serve them was gone for months. It was a discouraging, helpless feeling watching everyone else take care of our home. And suddenly, I couldn't wait to sweep up those crumbs and scrub the toilets.


I'm still struggling with some chores around the house. What the mind says, the body doesn't always do. But as I'm listening to my body and trying to push it to strengthen the ankle (and knee, leg, and hip that also weren't used for months), I'm also trying not to push it to the point of greater injury. It's a difficult balance to find.

Every night I go to bed sore and exhausted. My body and my ankle ache. I have good days and then days when my ankle swells back up and walking is nearly impossible again. But even on those physically challenging days, I have chosen to be happy.

Life is good, for so very many reasons. And now again, I get to serve the people who bring me the greatest joy and blessings and who are part of my "many reasons."

I won't claim that the messes make me happy, but I will be thankful for what they represent. Food. Clothing. Learning. Fun. Life. Blessings.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/24/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2) 

Happy Friday and Happy Thanksgiving! Our family has been abundantly blessed. What are you thankful for this week?

1. Alyssa, watching me ice cinnamon rolls: "There's a sight for sore eyes."

2. Tyler, sweetly: "Alyssa, you're the best sister I ever had."

3. Nicholas, hiding under all the pillows on my bed: "Mommy! Where are me?!"

4. Jake: "I got a joke! What kind of bird sings?"
Me: "Hmm, a mocking bird?"
Jake: "No. A chicken tenor!" (chicken tender)


6. Tyler is notorious for sitting at the dinner table with his barely-touched food, long after everyone else has finished.
Tyler, 2 minutes after we discussed what he had left to eat: "I ate all my (raw) carrots!"
Me: "Really? That fast?"
Tyler: "Yes! . . . Oh, that’s right. I accidentally dropped them on the floor. Accidentally."
{I tell him to pick them up and eat them. Time passes. He eats 2 carrots. I encourage him to eat the last one.}
Tyler: "I ate them all!"
Me: "Good. Did you really eat them all? You’re sure?"
Tyler: "Yes."
Me: "Ok, but if I go in there and find your carrot, you’re going to have to eat 2 more instead of just that 1."
Tyler: "Weeeeeell, I’m just going to check to see if Nicky ( who hadn’t been in the kitchen for 20 minutes) dropped one of my carrots on the floor . . . Oh, yep, he did. And it’s even by his seat so I know he did it. {picks up carrot} Hey, it looks just like my last one!"

7. Tyler, looking in the mirror before we left to celebrate Thanksgiving with family: "Hey, I actually do look nice."


9. Nicholas: "You need go rest."
Me: "I do?"
Nicholas: "Yes, on the couch. Your ankle hurts."

10. Jake, after Nicholas was acting silly: "I love that little baby."

11. Tyler, looking at his arm: "Hair is technically invisible unless there's a lot it."

12. Zac, about the dishwasher, because Tyler was getting a clean bowl: "Don't close it all the way, because then the green light will turn off and it will think it needs to wash the dishes still."
Tyler: 'Whoa, I didn't realize it was actually alive."

What made you Smile this week?

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/17/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2) 

Happy weekend! This week Jake went to The Henry Ford Museum with friends, we had our first Game Schooling day, Leighton took Zac to the zoo for his Special Day to celebrate his 8th birthday, and we enjoyed time together as a family. 

1. Jake: "What do bugs learn in kindergarten?"
Me: "I don't know. What?"
Jake: "The A, B, fleas."

2. Nicholas: "I 'mall. You big and Daddy big, but I 'mall."

3. Me: "Hey, that's cool! Where did you learn that?"
Tyler: "My brain taught me."


5. Me, frustrated: "Aw, Ty, why did you do that?"
Tyler: "I didn't do it on accident."
Me, humored by his mix-up: "You didn't?"
Tyler: "No, I'm serious. It wasn't on accident!"

6. Alyssa: "Every good notebook tells you how many pages are in it."

7. Zac: "Mom, I bet you'd win a breakfast, lunch, or dinner competition show, because everything you make is delicious."

8. Zac, showing a die with one dot: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "One."
Zac, showing a die with two dots: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "Two."
Zac, showing a die with three dots: "What number is this?"
Nicholas: "Upstairs." 

(looks like a set of stairs up, up, up)

9. Me: "Are you my boy?"
Nicholas: "No. "
Me: "No?! Well then, whose boy are you?"
Nicholas: "Daddy's."
Me: "You're Daddy's boy?"
Nicholas: "Yeah. He my bess fwend."

10. Nicholas, to me: "Hey, babe? I want someping to dwink."

11. Nicholas: "I have fuit nacks?"
Me: "No. We don't even have fruit snacks."
Nicholas, dejected: "Aww, Jesus have fuit nacks!"

What made you Smile this week?

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/10/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler (5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy Weekend! This week, we finished up another year with the Homeschool Review Crew, Leighton took Zac to the zoo for his special day alone for his birthday, the kiddos made some easy fall decorations, we celebrated Leighton's birthday, and we made sure to Smile. 

1. Tyler: "Mom, I think we have too many toys."
Me: "Can I get that in writing?"
Tyler: "But, Mom, pleeeeease don't get rid of any of my toys. I love them. I'm serious."

2. Tyler, to Zac: "I remember when you were 5. I don't remember when you were 6 though."

3. Me: "Does anyone realize that I'm up and organizing the pantry?"
Alyssa: "Yes."
Me: "Isn't that amazing?!"
Alyssa: "Yes. If you think it's amazing, I think it's amazing."

4. Nicholas, sitting on Jake's shoulders, squeezing around his face and clawing his eyes: "Hug. Let's be fwends."


6. Alyssa, watching my dad make shapes with dominoes and give the names for shapes with 8, 9, and 10 sides: "Just when you think shapes can't get more complicated . . . "

7. Tyler: "I like socks. You can wear them on any feet you want!"

8. Jake: "What do you call a sea chocolate?"
Me: "Hmm . . . I don't know. What?"
Jake: "An M&Mone." (anemone) 

9. Nicholas, in bed at 10:30 p.m., wide awake: “Mommy, can I hold you? Mommy? Mommy! Can I hold you? Can I hold you, pease?!"
Me, from my room: "No." 
Nicholas: "Oh, man! Pease, Mama! Pease, Mama! Pease! I need my water. Where my cup? Hey, where my punkin? Pizza! Pizza. Pizza. Where is eberyone? Eberyone? Where are you? Hmm, my bess fwend . . . Sissa, turn on your light. Sissa, turn on your light! Sissa!" 
Alyssa: "Go to sleep."
Nicholas: "No, you go to fweep! {grabs a book to read} Dis go pirate. Hmm, dis go pirate, too. Dis go ship . . .”

10. Tyler: "Yesterday was my worst day ever."
Me: "It was? Why is that?"
Tyler: "I don't know."
Me: "It was the worst day but  you don't know why?"
Tyler: "Oh, that's right, yesterday wasn't my worst day ever. A long time ago was."
Me: "Well, why was that day your worst day ever?"
Tyler: "I don't know! I don't remember anything about that day."

What made you Smile this week?

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thinking Like an Engineer

It's hard to believe this is our last review with the Homeschool Review Crew for 2017! We've received some amazing products this year, but what better way is there to end than with one my son's favorites?

As soon as I watched the introduction video of Thinking Like an Engineer, I knew my oldest son would love it. He wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I was . . . until he started the course. Then he was hooked! I can't even tell you how many times now he's thanked me for signing him up for Innovators Tribe

Innovators Tribe was created to help revive innovation, creativity, and discovery. STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) is being recognized more and more for its importance. Wayne Kroeplin (Mr. K) created the Innovators Tribe's courses--Engineer, Architect, Carpenter (coming soon)--to direct students to become problem-solvers and innovators who are driven by their natural abilities. The self-paced, interactive lessons take the work away from the parents and give them the resources and confidence they need to support their students. These online courses are ideal for 6th-12th graders who love technology and hands-on activities.

Thinking Like an Engineer covers the following the topics:

  • Introduction to Enginnering
  • Introduction to 3D Design (tools of modern design)
  • Engineering Rollercoasters
  • Engineering Bridges
  • Nano Engineering (Discovery of a New World)
  • Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion

The lessons are a combination of videos, slides, pictures, and text. Mr K teaches in a way that makes the information easy to understand. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject spills over into his teaching which causes the viewer to catch some of that excitement, too.

One of the best ways to learn something is to do it. That's why there are many engaging challenges to reinforce the lessons. Students will build a tall paper tower, find the best way to craft paper to hold up pounds of books, build a filter to purify water, learn how to 3D design, build a working mechanism completely out of paper, design and create a rollercoaster, construct a suspension bridge, and more.

When I said that my son loved the program, I wasn't exaggerating. The course requires approximately 30 hours to complete, including projects. We've had access to Innovators Tribe for just over a month, and he's gone through all the lessons. All the lessons. On his own. I'd get up in the mornings to find him already working through the material. There are some challenges that he still needs to do, but he's waiting for help from my husband. He just couldn't wait to move on though and would watch the next portions before completing certain projects.

My husband was interested in engineering and architecture when he was a teenager. He had planned to make it his career before God called him to Bible college. Now, it's amazing to see how often he gets to use his talents at his demolition job. He's often solving problems and creating new tools to meet their needs. His inventions amaze me. Our oldest son is just like him. It's been fun watching the two of them talk about this engineering course and working together.

One thing that drew my boy to the program is the inclusion of 3D CAD software. He loves designing (which is why you can find him building with LEGO at any given moment) and technology. He is fascinated watching my husband design and create things on his 3D printer. So when he had access to his own lessons to teach him the ins and outs of the software, he was ecstatic. He completed the challenges in that version and then moved on to the advanced lesson using the software that my husband uses. He has learned so much in such a short amount of time and has far surpassed what is included in the course. The things he has designed on his own are so impressive and contain much detail.

I cannot say enough about this program. It is challenging to get my son motivated to do schoolwork, so saying that he completed this course much sooner than required and then spent numerous hours delving into deeper study is astonishing. It's not just because of the topic either, because we've used other engineering type of programs that just couldn't motivate his inner engineer. Innovators Tribe truly is remarkable.

Once he and my husband finish all the projects, I would like to have him work through Thinking Like an Architect and the newest course, Thinking Like a Carpenter. We hope to be part of the Tribe for a long time.

You can see some of the fun and engaging activities that are included in Thinking Like an Engineer in the video below. What you can't hear in this is when he was lifting the books and said, "Whoa! These are heavy. This paper is stronger than me!" Come watch how he made 1 piece of paper and a little tape hold up dozens of pounds of books.

Thank you, Innovators Tribe for sparking this passion in my son and encouraging him to apply himself and his engineering mind. Here's to the next generation of innovators. 

You can read more reviews of this program and also of the architecture version on the Homeschool Review Crew blog. 

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

My kids are so excited every time we get to review for The Pencil Grip, Inc.. They love arts and crafts and appreciate getting new supplies to make creations. The mess-free Kwik Stix are well-loved in our house by both kids and mom alike. The kids equally like the thinner version of the stix as well, but had only used the classic colors. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they opened the box with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. was started in 1992 by Dr Lois Provda, an educational therapist. The company has been selling hundreds of unique and innovative products for the school, home, and office ever since. They offer the original ergonomic pencil grips that encourage proper writing skills, textured products that appeal to sensory-seeking kids, ultra-safe scissors, basic office supplies, and, of course, the Stix. 

The Thin Stix, just like the original Kwik Stix, are solid tempera paint sticks, but without the mess. That means we don't always have to pull out the paint, brushes, smocks, and cups whenever the kiddos want to create masterpieces. Don't get me wrong, my kids love traditional painting! But Mom doesn't always want to deal with the hassle. With these paint sticks, they can simply uncap, twist, and paint to their hearts' content. On top of that, the fast-drying formula of the stix though allows the color to dry in only 90 seconds!  Now we don't have paintings drying all over the house. The pages can simply be stacked in one neat pile. 

Even times when I would say no to a full-on painting session, I would never deny their requests for the Thin Stix. So quick and easy.  

The Stix remind me of a big tube of lipstick. The paint is waxy and slightly tacky. They silkily glide across the paper as you swipe. (I admit, it's a bit addicting!) Using them is more like coloring than painting though since you draw instead of brush the color around. The finish on the page is paint-like with a shimmery sheen, so the completed project looks like it was painted.

The Thin Stix are much slimmer than their original counterpart. Their size and length are similar to markers. They have slightly less paint inside (0.35 oz for the original, 0.21 oz for the thin). You can be more precise and accurate with the thin version.

Just like the regular Kwik Stix come in a variety of colors (classic, neon, and metalix,), the Thin Stix do, as well. All the colors are fun, but the shimmery metalix are my personal favorite, and given the fact that my kids "ration" the use of the gold and silver stix, I'd say they're their favorites, too, ha. 

We've used these to paint on all types of paper, coffee filters, popsicle sticks, wood, and styrofoam plates. They really are easy to use on just about any surface (just ask the 2-year-old how much fun it is to use these to paint on the kitchen table. Stinker.) This time we made sure to make some fall decorations to display on the windows. The kids and I had fun swirling the colors on pages. Then we flipped the pages over to draw leaves and cut them out. It was a fun surprise every time we turned them over to see how the patterns and colors came together.    

The Thin Stix Creativity Pack offers so many opportunities for creativity. If you're looking for a mess-free, fun, and easy form of art, these Kwix Stix may be just what you need.

You can connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. on the following social media sites:

You can find more art projects made with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack by reading the reviews on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 11/3/17

Jake (11 1/2), Alyssa (9 1/2), Zac (8), Tyler 5 1/2), Nicholas (2 1/2)

Happy weekend! What a fantastic week it's been! Zac turned 8 years old, we celebrated 3 of the boys' birthdays with a party with family, and after 11 weeks I can walk! I still have a long way to go before my ankle  injury is fully healed, but we're finally seeing improvements. So much to be thankful for, so many Smiles.  

1. Jake: "You know why I don't like birds? Because they're foul." (fowl)

2. Nicholas, in the middle of the night: "Mommy, can I hold you?"

3. Nicholas: "Zachy, you want to be my bess fwend?"

4. My birthday boy.

5. Jake, making up a joke: "Knock, knock."
Me: "Who's there?"
Jake: "Archibald."
Me: "Archibald who?"
Jake: "Archibald and have no hair?"

6. Nicholas, running into the room with a big smile: "Hi, Mama! Nuffing in my mouf!" (He had just sneaked chocolate from the pantry.)

7. Alyssa, writing a story: "The girl in my story speaks fluent Scottish."

8. Zac's LEGO creation.

9. Nicholas, handing me a LEGO Duplo boy: "He sad. He miss his daddy."
Me: "Aww, he misses his daddy? Do you miss your daddy, too?"
Nicholas, looking out the window: "Oh, where my daddy? I love my daddy!"

10. Zac, making up a joke after eating cantaloupe: "What do you call melon bread?"
Me: "Hmm, I don't know."
Zac: "Cantaloaf."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Magic Stories

Books are one of our favorite things to review. You can learn important facts about history, discover far away places, examine animals and their habitats, find out the step-by-step details of a craft, locate a tasty recipe, and plummet into a fantasy land--all through the pages of a book. 

Because literature is the foundation of our education, I'm always looking for new books to add to our vast collection. The Magic Stories from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series are digital stories, so they won't even take up precious bookcase space. 

Allsaid & Dunn was founded by Kenneth Hodkinson who authored the first Wordly Wise vocabulary book over 40 years ago. He expanded the series to include books for grades K-12 and is well-known for vocabulary development. He also worked with his daughter to launch The Reading Game, an interactive card matching game and accompanying books. We were first introduced to The Reading Game 6 years ago and have been playing it ever since. In fact, I had pulled it out to play with my 5-year-old just days before learning about The Magic Stories a month or so ago. Knowing how much we enjoy that game, I was excited to use this follow-up resource, as well. 

The Magic Stories reading program contains a set of 6 books that are written at a 2nd-3rd grade level: 
  • The Magic Hole
  • The Magic Ax
  • The Magic Joke
  • The Magic Hotdog
  • The Magic Boots
  • The Magic Box

The stories are written with most words fitting into the category of simple sight words based on familiar phonetic patterns and word family association. As we all know though, the English language is tricky, and not all words can be easily learned or recognized by an early reader. That's why these stories incorporate some of those more difficult words into their texts. These words are listed as the "Naughty Forty" at the back of each book.    

The program also includes printable flashcards and worksheets for each story. The flashcards correspond to the Naughty Forty words. They print 10 cards on a sheet of paper and list the word in bold along with a sentence using the word. The 4 worksheets for each story follow the same format: maze (answering true/false questions about the story; a correct answer takes the student to a new question, an incorrect answer results in a dead end), finish the sentence (answering questions about the story in own words), imagine (gives the student an opportunity to put himself in the story), finish the story (encourages the student to write a part 2 to the story and gives example beginning paragraphs).    

Included with the exercise worksheets are a couple record keeping pages to help you keep track of your child's progress. The word assessment sheet lists the Naughty Forty words for the book. If your student can read and understand the word, you mark a check on the line. There are spots for testing both before reading the story and after reading it. The running record page gives a 100-word excerpt from the beginning of the story. You can mark any mistakes your child makes while reading and determine their level of accuracy. 

There isn't a suggested schedule or directions included with the program, so you have much liberty with how you use it. I had my second grader use The Magic Stories as part of his daily reading. The short books can be printed, but we chose to read them digitally. My son would read the Naughty Forty words to me, and then read the story to himself. Afterward, he would complete the printed maze, sometimes on his own and other times with me. Then, we would work through the exercise pages together. Instead of requiring him to write his answers, I allowed him to verbally tell me. That time together also gave us the opportunity to expou/nd on his thoughts, especially during the imagine questions. 

The Magic Stories is a new program, so there are a few kinks that still need to be worked out. Things like Naughty Forty lists not matching between the list in the book and the list on the word assessment sheet, grammatical errors, and spelling mistakes are some of the issues. There also isn't an answer key, so the only way to know the correct answers is to read the stories yourself. All in all, it's a good program that will be even better when the mistakes are corrected.*

(*Edited to Add: There are now both instructions and the correct sight word assessment worksheets under the free resources section toward the bottom of the page.)

My boy enjoyed The Magic Stories and laughed at many parts. He told me, "The Magic Hotdog is my favorite, because it's so funny." He is already a strong reader and struggled with only a few words through this program, so he read through the pages quickly and nearly effortlessly. 

If your emerging reader needs some practice, The Magic Stories might be a help to you. 

You can connect with The Magic Stories through the Reading Game on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of The Magic Stories on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Crew Disclaimer
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Things That Make Me Smile 10/27/17

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

Happy Friday! This week had some ups and downs, but was filled with many blessings. Did you watch for your Smiles this week?

1. Alyssa, one minute after Leighton and all the boys left the house: "I miss them already."

2. Jake: "When sheep get tired, do they count themselves?"

3. We planted potatoes on my brother's farm earlier this year. We weeded the rows a couple times over the summer and then harvested the potatoes this week. The kids helped a lot and worked hard, but they spent more time chasing the chickens and feeding the pigs, ha. I'm happy about the potatoes, but even more thankful for family. 

4. Tyler: "Mommy, truth or dare?"
Me: "Dare."
Tyler: "I dare you to give me a kiss!"

5. Tyler: "Mom, do you remember when I was 5? I'm 5 1/2 now."

6. Zac: "Goodnight, my beloved mother."

7. Jake, making up a joke: "What happens to a bad comedian? . . . He gets pun-ished."


9. Nicholas spent a few nights with my parents. When he saw everyone again, he shrieked with excitement and danced around giving everyone hugs and kisses.  

10. Zac: "I can't wait until Nicky gets bigger so I can tell him how cute he was when he was little."

11. Zac, giving my parents hugs and kisses because we were leaving: "Goodbye." {leans to give me a kiss}
Me: {kiss}
Zac, smiling: "I did that just to get an extra kiss."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Weave Your Word in Me Review

One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is having plenty of time each day to focus on spiritual matters with my kids. Sometimes the teaching is one-on-one--and those times are special, for sure--but my favorite times are when all the kiddos and I sit together and just talk. We can be discussing a simple Bible story or thought and, as the conversation deepens, it twists and turns into so much more. It helps me see into their hearts and helps them to realize that this relationship we have with Christ is real.

Currently, Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1 from Kid Niche Christian Books is the study that has been jump-starting those precious conversations. 

Kid Niche Christian Books provides biblical resources to help kids understand who God is and how to have a meaningful relationship with Him. The books, written by Susan Case Bonner, focus on the teachings of Jesus through the Lord's Prayer. The books for the younger kids are parent-led resources, while the tween-teen books are independent studies. There is also a devotional book designed for families.  

Weave Your Word in Me is a Bible and prayer curriculum for grades 4-6. It contains 36 lessons that teach truths about God through the Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6. Just like Jesus gave us an example of how we are to pray to God the Father, this curriculum also gives an example through a rhythmical prayer that is modeled after the original. The lessons break down this prayer, My Whole Self Before You, line-by-line to teach kids who God is and how to talk to Him. This consumable curriculum comes on thick 70# paper, punched, and read to be placed in a 3-ringed binder. There are 80+ pages that include the lessons, answer key for 6 common Bible translations, both prayers, and instructional materials.

While this study is ideal for tweens to use on their own, it can also be adapted for family devotions. My kids and I are working through this study together at the beginning of our school day. We begin with our own prayer, asking for open hearts, understanding, and wisdom. Then we start our lesson for the day. Normally I would have the kids take turns filling in the blanks, but because I've been recuperating from an injury and schooling from the couch, we've had to rearrange some things. The kids still take turns finding the passages in the Bible and reading the verses, but I am the one who has been writing their answers in the book so I can lead the discussions.

The lessons incorporate fill-in-the-blanks, short answers, true/false, multiple choice, matching, and more. There are definitions, illustrations, and places to draw your own pictures. Each lesson ends with My Prayer, a fill-in-the-blank example prayer to reinforce the truth that was taught.

The beginning lessons are short and can be completed in 5-10 minutes. We tend to spend more time developing the thoughts and deepening the discussion.. About half-way through the curriculum, the lessons are a little bit longer, but are no where near overwhelming.     

The kids and I are enjoying this study. I love that it can be used with our chosen translation without having to adapt it and that it can easily be used independently by a tween or together as a family. It has encouraged some good conversations with my kids and is teaching us all a better way to come before God.

There is much to learn in this curriculum, and it is just part 1 of the study. Not only is there a second part to the actual curriculum, but there are many more opportunities of learning on Kid Niche Christian Book's activities page. There are hymn histories, puzzles and games, crafts, videos, and much more. These resources greatly enhance the curriculum and change it from a simple Bible lesson to more of a unit study.

Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1  is a lovely resource to teach kids to understand God and stregnthen their relationship with Him.

You can connect with Kid Niche Christian Books on the following social media sites:

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

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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 1/2), 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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