Cutest Blog and Widdlytink


My Stick Family from WiddlyTinks.com

Aug 22, 2016

My Comedian

It's time again to start going through everyone's dressers and pulling out too short pants and ratty shirts.  It's time for the boys to moan and groan as I hand them clothing to try on to check for fit.  They have it pretty easy.  They only need to try a few items to give me "templates" for comparing with all the clothes in the drawers.

I asked Mal to look through his socks and put all the ones with holes in them *here* and all the others back in the drawer.  When I checked on his progress later, all of his socks were placed *here*.  Then I asked him why.

"Mom, all of my socks have holes in them."

Mr. Literal

Aug 19, 2016

Enlivenze TOS Review

 Shake.Stir.Solve.

I am a puzzle fan.  I admit it.  I love puzzlers.  Sadly, I am not great at some of the trickier ones, but give me a few minutes of peace and quiet and I'd either choose to read or do something puzzling.  Enlivenze LLC has really unique puzzles.  My family received the Tyrannosaurus Rex FlipStir Puzzle.


FlipStir Puzzles are completely different from any I've ever seen before.  It is basically a ten piece jigsaw puzzle.  That sounds deceptively simple.  Don't be fooled!  The puzzle comes sealed in a jar with only a special stir stick to manipulate the pieces.  Because the pieces can't be removed, they travel very well.  These puzzles are perfect for in the car, camping, or while waiting for your brother at Tae Kwon Do.


The plastic jar holds the ten 3D puzzle pieces and the wand comes in through a hole in the lid.  You use only the wand, gravity, smarts, and coordination to maneuver each segment of the puzzle into place.  With the sealed jar, you can never lose any of the pieces.  There is very little wiggle room inside the jar.  The pieces are "slices" of a half cylinder.  You must turn them this way and that to not only get them all facing the right direction, but also in the right order.

FlipStir Puzzles are challenging, but doable.  I've completed our puzzle multiple times now.  It usually takes me just under five minutes.  It can take much longer for others and I've seen several people admit defeat and give up.  Unless you're very young or have muscle control issues, I'd say anyone who perseveres *will* complete it.

I've learned a few puzzling tricks which help me complete it so quickly.
  1. The Shelf - As I get nearer to the end and it is difficult to manipulate the last few pieces, I will set a couple of slices on the "shelf" made by the completed segments.  Usually, I put slices 7 and 8 up on 1-6 while I maneuver 9 and 10 at the top of the jar.  Then I slide the last couple pieces in between.  Sometimes, I put 9 and 10 on the shelf and complete it all in order.
  2. All In a Row - I've also tried just getting them all going in the right direction and *then* rearranged them into the right order.
The latter is definitely the more difficult of the two.


The puzzles come in several designs and levels.  Our Tyrannosaurus is a level one.  This means that the pieces have a straight edge on the side they stack.  Level two puzzles have a wavy edge, making some of the manipulation a bit more challenging.  Both levels are intended for ages 7 and up.  They are made right here in the USA.

Some of the other Crew reviewers have puzzled over the Statue of Liberty, Rainbow Pencils, and the Solar System.  Be sure to click the green box at the bottom of this post to see some of the other puzzles in action.  They would make great gifts.  I have my eye on the Periodic Table of Elements.  Maybe for my birthday.  *hint*

This is the most fun puzzle I've seen in a long time.  I like that it doesn't take me that long to complete.  The designs are varied and interesting.  Enlivenze's customer service was fantastic.  They were very quick to respond and super helpful.


You can find FlipStir and Enlivenze LLC on social media.

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FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

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Funny Find ~ Sasquatch!

I want to say this could only happen here.  Sadly, I know there are actually quite a few states with claims on this guy!  Big Foot was strapped tightly into a truck at the grocery store.


Aug 18, 2016

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids TOS Review


¿Hablas español?  We are learning Spanish right now with the award winning Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Spanish Starter Set 1.  This is an immersion method of learning Spanish.  Videos are taught completely in Spanish by a fun, lively family of three boys, Eli, Andy, and Parker.



This 20 week curriculum includes a DVD, the student books, the corresponding Guide for Teachers and Parents, label stickers, and cards for the first three lessons.
  • Basketballs Aren't for Breakfast
  • The Little Magic House
  • The Little Magic House Part 2
  • and Go Squish game instructions for use with the cards.
There is a flight theme throughout the homeschool Spanish curriculum.  The student books are in-flight magazines to read as we fly off to a country in South or Central America. The lesson is introduced as we prepare to take off in our plane.  It's super cute, but I do want to mention the whine of the jet engine in the background plays havoc with my tinnitus, so I don't actually watch those segments.

The lessons follow the boys through a morning beginning with a hearty desayuno (breakfast).  You are introduced to the children as they come to the kitchen.  It's important to keep track of the boys' names as the workbook exercises will sometimes ask specifically what one or another of the boys enjoys doing with his time.  We learn that Andy likes to read, Parker likes to play basketball, and Eli *really* likes to eat!  I confess that we all had an awful time figuring out Parker's name when we first heard it.  To our untrained ear, it sounded like Pockets!  We are such New Englanders!  The boys also have two dogs, aptly named Grande and Pequeño, who join their adventures.  Mamá is rarely heard and never seen.

The engaging video stories can be viewed by all the kids together.  Merrick loves being involved and he went around for weeks saying "may gooska" whenever he liked anything.  It was one of those times that it's just so cute, you don't want to correct it.  We watched the lessons multiple times, even sometimes watching ahead, because the more they see it, the more they will remember it. They caught on to individual words quickly.


The workbooks included practice and review with typical workbook questions, as well as word puzzles, games, geography lessons, fast facts, and idioms.  One interesting idiom was "the last Coca-Cola in the desert" which means someone thinks they are "all that and a bag of chips."  (See what I did there?)


The colorful books are made of sturdy, thick paper, but the pages do have a glossy or waxy finish.  This does make writing with a pencil a bit tricky.

The Guide for Teachers and Parents walks you through the lessons and even gives a time frame for the daily objectives.  Some lessons at the beginning only schedule a portion of the video.  Later, lessons include longer video segments, certain assignments from the workbook, applying stickers, or playing a game.  The first few pages of the first TM are particularly important as they explain the teaching philosophy of Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.  Everything is planned out for you.


The included stickers are intended to be used to label objects around the home.  There are three sheets of stickers for each lesson.  This is great practice for translating.  The boys needed to remember what each word meant and then find something suitable on which to apply the stickers from the set, reinforcing the vocabulary being taught.  There are multiple copies of many of the words.

The Go Squish game is played similarly to a Spanish speaking version of Go Fish, with the vocabulary flash cards included for each lesson.  The more players you have, the more lesson sets you need to use.  You can also play with the cards like a memory game, matching the written word with a picture from the video stories.

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids is a fun, relatable Spanish curriculum that the whole family will enjoy.  I might actually learn some Spanish!

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids can be purchase as lessons on DVDs or as online access (a free 48 hour trial is available).  The back to school sale continues through August 31, 2016 and includes $5 domestic shipping.

Find Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids on social media.
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Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

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Aug 13, 2016

Funny Find ~ Sign Oops!

I was thinking about grabbing this sign for our homeschool area.  Using one chalkboard square per kid, works out perfectly.  What do you think?


Aug 4, 2016

Talking Shapes TOS Review

Talking Fingers Inc., the same vendor that brought us the super fun Read, Write & Type, also has a reading and spelling program called Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy.  Merrick is thoroughly enjoying this one, too.  He is learning to spell more CVC words while playing games on the computer.


Two sisters, Pat and Nat, realize that it's difficult to remember all of the great stories they enjoy telling each other.  They decide it would be a good idea to create a written language so they won't have to memorize them all.  They start by making letters that are shaped like pictures which begin with the sound the letter makes.  C is curved around a resting cat's back.  T is a tall pine tree.  A is an acrobat.


One important thing they notice, while looking in a pool, is that their mouths make different shapes as they speak.  Using a handheld mirror is a great way for children with enunciation issues to practice speaking clearly.  It will also help them differentiate sounds for reading (decoding) and spelling (encoding).  I remember once, years ago, giving Xavier a paper about beginning word sounds.  He wrote a W next to the reindeer because that is what he heard when he spoke.

The program includes seven books to be read in order.  Each book contains a story, reading and spelling games.  At the completion of a book, the child receives a gold, silver, or bronze award based on how well they completed it.  The next book can only be accessed once the current book is completed.  However, the games can be repeated later, playing them is not a "one and done" deal.  Scores can also be improved which will change the trophy next to the book.


In book one, they learn C, H, F, A, T, and S.  They're spelling and reading cat, fat, hat, and sat well by the end of the book.  Book two only introduces five more letters, but children will be able to read short vowel words much longer than just CVC.  Each book should be not just completed, but grasped thoroughly before moving on.


Talking Shapes does take a few minutes to load, every time you use it.  I recommend waiting for that to finish *before* calling the kids to the computer.  Don't waste their short attention span on waiting.  The screen remains black while it loads, with no indication it is loading.  Once you click on one of the books to begin, there is another short wait, though not as long as previously.

Talking Shapes would work best on a touchscreen computer.  Using the mouse or the touchpad on the laptop is difficult to maneuver because the button has to be depressed as the mouse is moved around the letter.  I thought Merrick would be completely put off by that, but he loved the challenge.  If he unclicked, he just went back and started where he left off.  If the letter is nearly complete, the system will accept it as complete and move on.

If you log off or leave the program, it will take you back to where you left off.  This was a great feature, as I'm a firm believer in letting preschoolers call an end to school.  When Merrick is done, we are done.  It's nice to know we won't have to repeat segments when we pick it up again to get back where we were.

In the lower left corner, Owl Scholar is waiting to give you a child report. It's a basic report which lists the book number, their score, and the highest possible score.  There is a score for each book, once completed.  Several times in the series there are cumulative review exercises which also are scored.

OK, so he resembles a penguin to me!

Talking shapes is a complete reading and writing preschool curriculum and will take some time to complete, depending on your child's ability.  The program is for children 4-5 years old.

A release for seven separate apps are being planned for use on tablets.

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Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

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Aug 3, 2016

CTCMath TOS Review

CTCMath was developed as an online math tutor in Australia.  The developer and main voice of CTCMath is Pat Murray, math teacher and father of ten.  The lessons consist of a video of just several minutes long followed by and a question section, completed right online.  The lessons can be viewed and attempted as many times as necessary.  Our family has been reviewing CTCMath Homeschool Membership.  The boys were getting pretty sick of workbook math, so we've been using CTCMath as our main (but not only) math for this review period.


When I set up our accounts, I went to the parents' website first.  By clicking Add A Student, I was able to enter the  names of each of the boys and create a user name and password for them.  Then I set what is an acceptable passing grade for them.  Once that was done, I went to the CTCMath website and they access the site via Student Login.  Some browsers will save log in information for you.  I declined this because they'd each be logging in and out pretty regularly.  

One of my favorite things about CTCMath is having full access to the entire website, making it easy to place my children exactly where they need to be.  For instance, Malachi is using CTCMath fourth and fifth grade, but he can access sixth grade in some areas.  If anyone needs a refresher on a few topics, we can easily switch back and forth.  The great thing about math is that you keep covering a lot of the same topics year after year, you just build on the knowledge already gained.  So, if long division is too difficult, go back a grade and review.  Xavier is finishing up third and working on fourth grade work.  Merrick has started using some CTCMath kindergarten as well.  You don't need to test your child, work through unnecessary lower level topics, or ask an administrator to move them ahead (or back).  Simply click on a different grade level.


We completed lessons, but I also used CTCMath for our reports to the state.  Diagnostic testing was a great option for that.  I chose some areas of math that I wanted to show the state in their portfolios.  They were topics that we had already covered and I just had them do the test (short, standard, or comprehensive) questions to print and mail in with their enrollment paperwork for next year.


One of the things I remember wishing for the last time I reviewed CTCMath was the ability for teachers to assign tasks to students.  This is available now and I really appreciate that feature.  Before I applied it, I noticed that Xavier was working on the same thing in two different grades!  He basically was wasting all the time spent in the lower level for the subject.  Now I don't have to worry about him forgetting which grade he is in.  That does actually happen in some homeschools!

Because we used CTCMath a lot to close out the 2015-2016 year, the boys haven't had the opportunity to earn many awards.  Now that we've submitted our paperwork for the year, we'll be using it more for lessons.  They enjoy getting the printable certificates, but the state doesn't accept overall grades without seeing the work that has been completed.  I received an email showing that Xavier had earned a certificate, but when I looked, he was working in third grade again!  sigh...  Another reason why assigning tasks will be very handy.  Poor Mal will likely never earn a certificate in measurement.  He still can't get a high enough score when measuring millimeters.  He's often off by one!


I've been gently suggesting to Malachi that he might find it helpful in some instances to keep a piece of scrap paper handy for figuring.  It only took him five weeks to give it a try and he was amazed at how much better he did after that.  He now has a 79% in the entirety of the multiplication section for his grade.  He wants to work to get that up to 100%.   I'm super proud of him planning to work hard and getting excited to put in some effort in math.

I can see detailed reports at my parent log in any time that I want.  I can see Activity information (who logged in, when, and for how long), Awards that have been earned (which I can print and save), and the Weekly Reports (which are also emailed to me).  Each child's account is there with all their log in information, how many lessons they completed, and overall grade.  It doesn't include the diagnostic testing they did, though.


This is also where I can assign tasks.  I can assign tasks to one student, some, or all, even hiding the grade level from the boys.


Under a student profile, I can quickly see
  • Detailed Report, 
  • Summary Report, 
  • Diagnostic Tests, 
  • Tasks, 
  • Awards, 
  • Speed Skills, 
  • and History.
Speed Skills are available in four levels.
  • Level 1 - addition and subtraction
  • Level 2 - addition, subtraction, and multiplication
  • Level 3 - addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Level 4 - addition, subtraction, mixed multiplication and division, division with remainders, and order of operations 

Other games are Times Tales Shoot 'em Ups and Swap Pieces.


I tried CTCMath on the internet on my Android phone.  I could play the videos and answer the questions, but unfortunately it took a lot of adjusting to see the whole thing on the screen.  There was scrolling up and down.  I also used it on my Kindle using Silk.  This worked much better, especially vertically displayed, which was the opposite of what I would have expected.  Both of these options took a moment to load the video, though not a long wait.  The touch screen on the Kindle worked very well for Merrick's dot graphs.  Speed skills did not work on either device.

We really enjoy CTCMath and I will definitely be using it as part of our regular schooling.  Any time these yahoos like math, it's a keeper.  Whether you're looking for a complete math curriculum or a supplement, these online video lessons and math games are perfect for all ages, kindergarten to adult.

CTCMath Homeschool Membership is available with many purchasing options for single student or multiple students.  There are monthly, 6 month, and twelve month selections to fit your needs and your budget.  Also, if you subscribe to their email, you'll receive notifications of CTCMath's sale.

CTCMath on social media.
CTCMath (US and Canda)

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For my international readers, Maths Online (Australia Only)

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CTCMath Review

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