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Nov 23, 2017

Redhanded Homeschool High Fives ~ Our 2017 Crew Favorites


It's time once again, as the Homeschool Review Crew year comes to a close, to choose our Redhanded Homeschool's High Fives for 2017.  I can't believe another year is behind us.  There were about 75 vendor "runs" this year.  My family reviewed 47 products to share with you.  Plus two single reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

For the 2017 Homeschool Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards, voting is very difficult in some categories.  We must choose *just one* vendor or product in each of the Crew's categories.  I've relaxed that rule for my blog.  'Cuz it's my blog, natch!  So where the punks or I loved more than one thing, I'm giving them all High Fives.

As usual, there are old favorites, new treasures, and things I've "had my eye on" for someday.  These favorites are all products that I would, actually have, or might again really pay money for it.  I think it's important that you can trust that when I tell you we absolutely loved something, I really mean it was *that good*.



Malachi's High Five
Carole P. Roman.  We really like her If You Were Me and Lived In... series, but Mal especially enjoyed our first fiction book from Carole, Oh, Susannah: It's in the Bag.  Actually, they all did and we have since read the second book and they're hoping for more.  The reading level is a bit below the older punks, but they love the stories, just for fun.

Xavier's High Five
First, Xav tried to choose Stopmotion Explosion again.  I told him he had to stick to products we reviewed in 2017, so he voted for The Brinkman Adventures - season 4 (see Merrick's High Five below).

Merrick's High Five
The Brinkman Adventures - season 4.  The Crew reviewed season 2 in 2014.  Since then, I've purchased seasons 1 and 3.  These fictionalized versions of real life missionary stories are always a hit.  They have a curriculum out for season 1 that I want to check out at some point, too.

My High Five for Moms
Homeschool Rescue from Only Passionate Curiosity.  I only managed to get through part of the program during the review period.  Now, I'll have a bit more time and I intend to finish it through once.  Then I want to work through it once each year to update our homeschool plan.
SchoolhouseTeachers.com is way more than just classes for the kids, though it certainly is that.  We've used this off and on since, I think 2011, when it started.  Back in those "olden days" if you had a subscription to the print Old Schoolhouse Magazine, you were given SchoolhouseTeachers.com access until your subscription ran out.  I had over a year of it.  About a year after it expired, I won another year in 2013.  In 2014, 2016, and 2017 I received access as a reviewer for the Homeschool Review Crew.  Hey, we're all family.  :)  I have decided to not return to the Crew in 2018 for various reasons, so I purchased two years during the BOGO sale last week.

These curriculum favorites are products we are still using, have completed this year, or will continue to use in 2018 and beyond.



Language Arts High Fives
Crafty Classroom's Learn to R.E.A.D. program - Merrick loves having his own school stuff that no one else does and the notebooking pages are so much fun for a Kinder.
Channie's Handwriting and Math Workbooks - I only reviewed the one handwriting workbook for littles, but I liked it so much, I ordered handwriting journals for the bigger littles and several math workbooks.
Reading Eggs - We've had Reading Eggs before.  I liked it so much, I was willing to pay for it when the bigger punks were littler.  Now Mal and Merrick are happily using it.  Merrick also likes to dabble in MathSeeds, though it placed him lower than I thought he should be.  I consider MathSeeds "just for fun" school.


Math High Fives
CTCMath.  Always.  And it's now a complete math curriculum for grades K-12. Another curriculum I have happily paid for and will again.

Science High Fives
Think Like an Engineer from Innovators Tribe is so much fun with all the hands on challenges.  I love that we are encouraged to include the whole family in this subscription.

Social Studies High Fives
Drive Thru History - The Gospels.  The Drive Thru History series is fantastic.  We're also using the American History videos for part of Xav and Mal's history this year.
Heirloom Audio ~ In the Reign of Terror and Captain Bayley's Heir.  While I have reviewed other Heirloom Audio titles for the Crew, I have also purchased copies of other titles in the series.  These audio dramas are crazy good.


Extra-Curricular High Fives
Creating a Masterpiece.  I wish we had been able to fit more of Sharon's lessons in before our subscription expired, but we really enjoyed learning how to make real art while we had it.
Doctor Aviation with Daryl Smith.  This one expires pretty soon and we enjoyed it a lot, though we didn't get through as much as we would have liked.

My Bonus High Fives
Lamplighter's The Secret Bridge.  While this wasn't the best book I ever read, I enjoyed it and it opened up a whole new world of literature for us.  Since this review, we toured the Lamplighter Ministries Book Bindery and purchased five or six more books and three audio dramas.  I especially recommend Sir Malcom and the Missing Prince and Teddy's Button.
Northern Speech Services' Color My Conversation was one of those "didn't know I needed" kind of curriculum.  We did set this aside, but will be picking it back up and starting over after the holidays.


Check out the *Official* Homeschool Review Crew Blue Ribbon Award winners and look in the Linky to read about my Crew Mates' family favorites.









Nov 17, 2017

F is for Family Christmas (Slugs & Bugs) ~ A #5things Post and Giveaway



We're listening to Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible Family Christmas.  It was the first Christmas album I allowed this year because I was so excited when it finally arrived.  I was on the Kickstarter this summer and I could not wait to get all my fantastic music!  One copy of Sing the Bible, one copy of Sing the Bible vol2, two Sing the Bible vol3, and two Family Christmas.  Since I already own the first volume, thanks to a blog giveaway just like this one, I will be sharing three of these albums with YOU, my readers.  Check out the trailers below.



Today's giveaway is for a copy of Sing the Bible Family Christmas.  I haven't done a #5things post in a while, so I'm going to do that and tell you five things about Family Christmas.

  1. Randall Goodgame and Andrew Peterson are the brainiacs behind Slugs & Bugs, with the first CD released in 2007.  Now, it's a family affair and all the Goodgames are involved.
  2. Most Sing the Bible songs are *word for word* from scripture, using various Bible versions depending on singability (or the Slugs & Bugs MSV - most singable version).
  3. Family Christmas intentionally has that A Charlie Brown Christmas feel, ala Vince Guaraldi, and also a Peanuts inspired cover.
  4. Moms (and maybe Dads) will love the music as much as the kids.  Seriously. 
  5. I think my favorite of the 12 tracks is Mary's Song, sweetly sung by Livi Goodgame and using the ESV of Luke 1:46-49.
So there you have it, #5things.  Really there are tons more to tell, but I think you should just give them a listen.




You can read a bit more about how we use Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible to aid in scripture memorization.

Enter the giveaway rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Also, I'm on another round of Blogging Through the Alphabet.  Check it out.

Hopkins Homeschool

Nov 13, 2017

E is for Evangelism ~ Operation Christmas Child

National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child starts on Monday.  Not sure what Operation Christmas Child is?  It's an arm of Samaritan's Purse.


From the Samaritan's Purse website:

Mission Statement

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

They provide assistance to people in need around the world.  By responding to natural disaster sites, war torn environments, and more, they are able to share the Good News to hurting men, women, and children.  They help people rebuild, give medical care, work with wounded US veterans and their spouses, train people to care for animals and plants to provide food and a livelihood to individuals and their neighbors, greatly improving their quality of life.  And really, that's just a small sample of the many things Samaritan's Purse does.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry that reaches kids ages 2-14 around the world.  With the gift of a shoebox, the door is opened for the eternal gift of the gospel.  Children receive a gift, prayerfully and lovingly packed by other children, families, and churches.  Items packed generally include school supplies (paper, pencils, crayons, coloring books), hygiene items (soap, washcloths, tooth brushes), clothing (a shirt, socks, underpants, shoes), and toys (a slinky, whistle, cards, dolls, soccer ball with pump).


We've packed shoeboxes almost every year since the bigger littles were baby punks.  It's part of what we do each fall now and I think they would be pretty disappointed if they didn't get to choose toys and games to include in each box.  We go through our stash of small toys, tools, games, and gadgets and pack items in each box very intentionally.

Some items are more expensive than others, but there are often sales on most items you might want.  I never imagined I could afford soccer balls and pumps for boxes, but I found a sale last year for $2.50 for real soccer balls.  Then I shopped around for inexpensive, but sturdy, ball pumps.  I've purchased small fleece blankets (originally $5, on sale for $2.50 or less) and with some creative folding, rolling, and packing, they are easy to fit in a shoebox without displacing other important items.  Sometimes, a great toy assortment or small stuffed animals become reasonably priced.  I don't get "cheap" toys, but rather items at a good price.  I figure, if my punks would break a toy in ten minutes, a lot of other punks would break the toy in ten minutes.  There's no fun in broken toys.


It's just as much fun to pack for older children as it is for the littles.  I like getting to put a bit more thought into what a 13 year old might be interested in as opposed to a six year old.  I've included small tool kits for boys and crochet hooks and yarn for girls.  Somewhere, on the great wide interwebs, once upon a time, I found crochet instructions with NO WORDS, so no language barrier.  In just pictures, girls can learn to crochet basic items.  The source of that document is no longer on the internet, but it has me thinking of other things that can be taught in photos.


We make purchases year round.  It makes it a lot easier to pack more boxes without a big expense all at once.  I don't follow the Samaritan's Purse shopping schedule; I just purchase whatever I see on sale (shoes, clothes, toys, and school supplies) at the end of the season, then add washcloths, soap, and toothbrushes.  This year, I had so many little girls' shoes, and shirts for both boys and girls I was able to pass them on to a church to include in their boxes.   I had thought about keeping some for next year, when I heard the Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible version of Matthew 6:19-21 and Luke 3:11 decided to get them sent out this year.  I know I'll find more bargains for next fall.



Another great feature of the Operation Christmas Child ministry is that we can track our shoeboxes.  By paying the reasonable shipping fee online, we can print labels for our boxes which can be scanned and we are emailed the country of the box's final destination.  Some years, all of our boxes go to the same country and other years we've had boxes head to as many as four different countries.  Only once have we not found out where our box went and we learned it went to a "hard to reach" area.  This means the final destination can't be revealed for safety reasons.  I imagine that may be one of the places of greatest need for the gospel message.

Check out Samaritan's Purse to see what happens to a shoebox as it travels from your home to a child in need somewhere in the world.





Find drop off locations and times for your area.

#ipackedashoebox

Nov 7, 2017

Innovators Tribe ~ A Homeschool Crew Review


When Innovators Tribe showed up in the upcoming vendor list for the Crew, I sent Dad the link and asked if he thought Xav would be able to use the course in any meaningful way.  Xav's my STEM guy.  Well, minus the "M" - math.  He loves experiments and hands on work.  Thinking Like an Engineer looked like something right up his alley.  Dad said he thought Xav could do it, but he knew he would definitely LOVE the course.  Wayne Kroeplin's (Mr. K) courses are for grades 6-12 with some wiggle room.  My punks are in 5th and 6th grade, but math is a struggle.  *So far* math hasn't been an issue at all.  They haven't needed it for anything.  Not even to succeed in the challenges.  The best part about this class is that you are *encouraged* to invite everyone in the family to participate *together*.  This has given us some fun memories of supporting and working alongside each other.  (And believe me, those moments are few and far between.  We seem to be in a very competitive stage.)


Thinking Like an Engineer is a pre-recorded online course.  Pacing is decided by you and your family.  We took a pretty leisurely pace and generally watched one lesson or completed one challenge each week.  Certainly, your students could work at a faster pace.  I think a video/slide show lesson plus a challenge (or more!) in the same week is completely doable.  At one lesson and one challenge, you would spend about 2-3 hours on the course for the week.

Each unit has a "journal" to fill in with the information found in the videos, sort of a guided notetaking page.  The lessons also have assignments.  We've had various amounts of success with the journals and assignments.  One assignment is learning about an engineer that is involved *somewhere* with a topic in which the students are interested.  Well, Mal is only interested one kind of "engineer" and that's a *train* engineer.  I have directed him to transportation engineers and we've looked up how engineering is used in the design of trains and railways.  It isn't quite the same, but he was willing to learn a bit about it.  Xav was interested in engineering as it applies to Lego toys.  While we found listings for job openings in engineering for Lego, they were in a foreign language.  Most of what we found was about designing Lego sets.  So, the researching engineers part didn't go great for us, it was good practice at online researching and we did learn a bit.

Innovators Tribe What You Get

The units include:
  • Intro to Engineering
  • Intro to 3D Design
  • Engineering Rollercoasters
  • Engineering Bridges
  • Nano Engineering
  • Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion
I thought I'd tell you about some of our favorite activities and challenges to give you a feel for the course.  Lesson 3 is called Engineering Clean Water.  While I watched the lesson and the associated outside videos, I remembered the PlayPump.  Does anyone else recall the water pump that was run by children playing on a Merry-Go-Round?  I always thought that was genius.  Unfortunately, when I looked it up recently, I found out it didn't end very well, for the most part.  Throughout the Thinking Like an Engineer course, we were encouraged to be innovators and try new things.  Even though the PlayPump doesn't work well in all situations, it was definitely innovative.

In lesson 4, you receive the 3D Design software that you will use to create bridges and roller coasters.  We aren't using this yet (so close), but I know Xav especially is going to love it.  He eats that kind of thing right up!

Thinking Like an Engineer

The challenges have been a blast!  Some times we don't handle failure very well, When we have worked on the challenges, there has been an "Oh, rats!" or three, but no one has been angry about starting over and rethinking the processes.  We have had so much fun completing these tasks together.

Our first hands on challenge was to try to construct towers using regular copy paper.  Well, the punks were a bit disappointed, because Mr. K said some students had built their towers a couple feet taller than they did.



His class also stacked more books than we did in the second challenge.  We used one sheet of paper and had two feet of masking tape for this challenge.  We tried fan folding, circles, and concentric circles.


This happened a lot.


 And this.


But through all the challenges we faced, we brainstormed our way through to make the best of the assignment and to figure out what we could do differently or better to improve our results.  Eventually, we got to this.


If I had made just three or maybe four rings, even though they were super tiny, I would have had more stability and been able to stack books higher.

Our third challenge was creating a crude water filter using information from an Environmental Protection Agency video.  We didn't complete that challenge here at home, because a class in our co-op recently did this.  (Hmmm... As co-op yearbook creator, I thought I had taken a picture of that lesson, but it appears I did not.) 

The one thing I really wished for was the "solution" to the challenges.  How did Mr. K's class get 200 POUNDS of books on the single sheet of paper?  HOW?  I need to know!  Maybe gEEk Dad can tell me.  The punks and I absolutely love the hands on quality of the coursework and they really like the videos.  They've learned a lot of information seemingly unrelated to engineering.  I think they especially liked the clean water challenge and we could tell that it was an important problem to Mr. K.

I also enrolled in the free Think Like an Innovator course.  I think the punks are going to like it, too!  Mr. K offers another course, Thinking Like an Architect, also for grades 6-12.  Some of my CrewMates reviewed that as well.  So please click below to read some of the other reviews.


Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}


Crew Disclaimer

Nov 4, 2017

D is for Easy, Breezy... Dangerous


We once lost 14 trees to a wind storm.  That's just the trees in the yard.  It doesn't count any in the woods.  It was a terrifying day in which I hid in the basement with the bigger littles.  Since then, we've had plenty of crazy wind storms, but I worry a *lot* less than I used to about trees smashing our house.

The other night, we had another storm and we lost one "smallish" tree, much shorter than those 80footers that were blown over before.  And probably half the diameter.  It didn't hit anything, but was a bit too close for my comfort to the van!


So thankful the treehouse trees remained intact.  I'm pretty sure these geese were wishing they had flown south about 24 hours earlier.






















Oct 31, 2017

Let The Little Children Come #2 ~ A Homeschool Crew Review


Today, I want to tell you about some evangelism tools for sharing the gospel with children.  Let the Little Children Come has a Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools Sampler Pack that I really think you're going to like.  Let the Little Children Come is not affiliated with any specific church.  You can see their Statement of Faith on the website.


Like the Is There Anything Better Than Candy? Box Tract I reviewed last month, these tools can each be purchased separately and come in packs of either ten or twenty.  Just check out the fun sampler pack and choose a favorite to share with your audience.  I ended up sending the pumpkin boxes, filled with candy, to the community soup kitchen along with some yummy cookies made by our co-op kids.

Most of the individual tract packs come with one leader's instruction sheet for the whole kit.  This sheet explains how to use the tract, what to say to the child, and lists verses for references.  There's also often an example prayer for children to pray to accept God's gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ.  As with the pumpkin tract boxes, I found the messages to be full of love and not fear.  Some of the tracts, like the Wordless Bracelet Kit, come with a small instruction card in each bracelet kit.  Some of these tracts also are available in Spanish.


Several types of tracts are included in this child evangelism tract sampler.

Three Animated Tracts.  These nifty booklet tracts have several pictures that feature sections made up of vertical lines.  They include an acetate sheet that alternates clear and black vertical stripes.  When the acetate is laid over the picture and moved left or right the picture becomes clear and appears to move. 
"It's like a little movie!"  ~ Xav

  • The True Story of Christmas - Features six illustrated pages, five of which use the acetate overlay.  The last page shares the gospel, including an example prayer.
  • Where's Everybody Going? - Six pages which use the acetate overlay and a page inviting readers to spend "forever and ever" with God.
  • John 3:16 - Four acetate overlay illustrations and the gospel message.

Two FlipAbouts.  I love these things.  Once I figured out *how* they work!  These little cards are so fun to play with.
  • John 3:16 - Tells John 3:16 in four pictures.
  • Gospel Buttons - Shares the gospel in a similar way as the other "wordless" products, using just gold, black, red, and green pictures.



Two Pop-up Tracts.







Two Bracelets.
  • Wordless Bracelet Kit - Children create their own wordless bracelet with the black string and black, red. white, green, and yellow beads.
  • Salvation Bracelet - This is one of those popular, rubbery bracelets, divided into the Wordless colors.
And a mini Wordless Book.


The Wordless items all start with Heaven, but we've always ended with Heaven.  There was a bit of resistance with those, so when we made the Wordless Bracelet Kit, we put the yellow bead at the end.  All the items in the Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools Sampler Pack are well made and I think will hold up to quite a bit of use.  I'm not sure, but I imagine the FlipAbouts won't last as long as some of the others, simply because of the continuous folding that will be happening once you've figured out how to flip it.  They are by far my favorite tools now that I've figured out exactly how they work.  Once I get started, I just keep flipping and flipping and...  The punks' favorites are the animated tracts.  They're pretty neat.  Xav also loves the bracelets.  He is almost always wearing some rubber bracelet or wristband.  He also loves crafting, so the Wordless Bracelet Kit is a must for kids who enjoy assembling things.

Each of these evangelism tools draws children in with a fun experience and allows them to hear the gospel message.  They then take these home with them where they share the fun and the message with their families and friends.  The more times they share the gospel, the more they are exposed to it themselves.




 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks



I think the best part about the Let the Little Children Come website is that you can go to the page of any of these tools and see so much about it before you decide to purchase one.   Each one includes descriptions and usage instructions.  Some of the information even shows a video of how the tracts work or are assembled.


Check out this resources page for more neat evangelism ideas that you can use today! 

Find Let the Little Children Come on Facebook. 


Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools {Let the Little Children Come Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Oct 29, 2017

C is for Cuddle


Earlier this year, we celebrated five years with a member of the family.  No, not Merrick.  It was BooBear.  Merrick loves his little friend that he got from Grandma of the Forest around his first Easter.  We had a nice little birthday party with a balloon and presents for BooBear.  He invited his friend Barnabas, too.


Sadly, as BooBear has gotten older, he has needed some repair.  We've looked high and low for a replacement bear, but never could find one.  I dread the day when BooBear can't be repaired again.  But in the meantime, he is a great cuddler.


Oct 23, 2017

Kid Niche ~ A Homeschool Crew Review


I wanted to teach the punks The Lord's Prayer this year.  I feel like I'm getting on this a little late, actually.  But this is great timing for Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1 from Kid Niche Christian Books.  Weave Your Word in Me is a two part Bible and prayer curriculum for tweens, using a reworked rhythmic version of The Lord's Prayer entitled My Whole Self Before YOU (which also happens to be the name of a book and Bible study for younger children, also from Susan Case Bonner). 


*******

Weave Your Word in Me is compatible with six Bible versions; KJV, ESV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, NABRE.  The answer pages in the back of the book provide the correct answers to each of these versions.  Many are already the same, so there may only be two or three correct options.  Weave Your Word in Me - Part 1 consists of 36 Biblical lessons for children in grades 4-6.  Part 2 has 44 more lessons, for a total of 80 lessons.  Each child will need a book of his or her own, as the pages are consumable, not reproducible.


The booklet arrives in shrink wrapped plastic with heavy paperboard to prevent folds and tears in shipment.  The weighty paper is three-hole punched and ready to be put into your 1/2" binder.  There's even a cover page for binders that have a pocket on the front.

Many of the pages are covered with colorful illustrations that enhance the lessons.  Each lesson is clearly numbered and is one or two pages in length.  Students look up between one and four verses in each lesson.  They then answer questions based on the reading.  Much of that is a fill-in-the-blank format.  There also are some underlining, true or false, open ended "think" type questions, as well as some other question and answer types.


Most of it was very straight forward, but personally, I needed a bit more direction with the My Prayer sections.  I like to know the "how" behind a lesson, not just the "what."  I'm sure it's quite simple for most people, but Mal and I struggled with this part.  We just discussed that part of the lessons and I led the prayers.  I think it will become easier for him as we continue through the lessons.  He has a tough time putting his thoughts into words and talking about what he is learning.


I planned originally to use the curriculum with Xavier, but after receiving it and looking it over, I decided to start working through it with Malachi.  He is doing well looking up verses on his own now and these prayer lessons require quite a bit of that.  It's fun to watch him explore the Bible more on his own and discover the answers in there by himself.

Author Susan Case Bonner includes her email throughout the website and in her book.  She seems very open to receiving questions about the lessons.  She has written Weave Your Word in Me to help guide children to a relationship with God, not to just talk to God in our prayers, but to build a foundation of real listening and understanding.  An open and teachable heart is required to develop that relationship, and that is the main purpose of this curriculum.

This prayer curriculum is not just the booklet lessons.  I also found a complimentary list of activities on the Kid Niche website.  There is something for every lesson in Weave Your Word in Me - Part 1 and for much of Part 2.  We enjoyed watching videos, coloring pages, and word puzzles through this activity section.  I think this website definitely enhances the lessons for children who are more visual and hands on than the workbook crowd.  As a child, I would have enjoyed the book on it's own very much.  Well, my boys are not me and they definitely prefer the activity area.  I did keep forgetting about the activities though and had to make myself a note to get in there and take a look at them.  Also, this section can be used by the whole family.


When I first saw this curriculum come up on The Crew, I was unsure how I felt about The Lord's Prayer being rewritten for children.  Well, I guess I am unsure about it still, as a replacement for learning The Lord's Prayer ("If it was good enough for Jesus..."), but it is a lovely prayer, though maybe a bit simplistic for upper elementary.  The classes are a nice assortment of important lessons for tweens are included to help them understand the character of God and learn to understand and build that relationship.  The page samples on the Kid Niche website are what really drew me in.  I liked the content of the lessons, the variety, and the color illustrations.


Mal used his NIV Bible for teens and did a great job finding and reading the verses he was directed to look up.  Some of his answers were incredibly short, but when we discussed the information he was more forthcoming than he was with writing.  Through this curriculum, Mal is learning to pray more clearly for his relationships, with others and with God.  I'm very thankful for that.


The lessons were fairly short, with the bulk of the time spent looking up the verses.  He also is a slow writer.  Though this curriculum would work well in a group setting; co-op or Sunday school, it probably wouldn't fill an hour for one lesson.  The added activities on the website, though, would definitely add quality to the group lessons as well as to individual lessons at home.


Part 1 and Part 2 of Weave Your Word in Me are $20 each, but if you purchase the complete package, you save 25%, receiving all 80 lessons for $30.

Find Kid Niche Christian Books on social media.

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Weave Your Word in Me {Kid Niche Christian Books Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Oct 21, 2017

B is for Planting Bulbs


After a busy afternoon at a tractor themed event at the library and an Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing party (followed by a nap for me!), I planted bulbs tonight with the littlest two punks while Mal manned the "leaf burning station" AKA fire pit.


We have such a short growing season, I love to see flowers peeking up in the spring.  Sometimes through the snow.  We planted hyacinths, crocuses, daffodils, and tulips in several places around the yard.


gEEk Dad took a bulb planter and attached a metal fence post to it, so it sort of has a shovel handle rather than the little handheld type handle.  He knows how to take care of me!  Merrick wanted so much to use it, but really he is too light.  Instead he was able to place the bulbs and fill in the holes.

Have you planted any spring bulbs yet?


Oct 16, 2017

Reading Eggs ~ A Homeschool Crew Review


There are some programs that work so well for one or more of the punks, I am more than happy to pay for a year, or two, of access.  Reading Eggs is one of those.  Some years back, once upon a time, I signed up for a free trial of Reading Eggs for the bigger littles.  It was so incredibly loved by them and helpful for them, that I did purchase a subscription.  I don't do that often, so that should tell you how much value I found in it.


Back then, I think it was just Reading Eggs that was available.  MathSeeds was being introduced.  I was sort of disappointed about MathSeeds, just because the punks tested out of that.  I'm always hoping for a math miracle here, but the boys were beyond what was offered at that time.  Now Reading Eggs is so much more, with three levels.  We received a six months subscription to all levels of Reading Eggs, plus MathSeeds, for two punks. 

Reading Eggs Junior, for the 2-4 year old crowd, has sections for learning the alphabet, hearing stories, watching videos, and learning concepts like "opposites."  I'm afraid I am not terribly familiar with this toddler section since Merrick is reading a bit.

Junior

Reading Eggs is intended for children approximately 3-7.  Reading Eggs teaches both phonics and sight word techniques.  Each of these methods has a place in learning to read and spell.  Merrick spent the last 4 weeks in Reading Eggs and is having a blast. 

Eggspress dashboard stats
The last language arts section is Reading Eggspress.  Eggspress is for ages 7-13 (approximately grades 1-6).  I'm not sure when Reading Eggspress was added to the family, but I don't remember it being available when the bigger punks had Reading Eggs subscriptions previously.  Mal and Xav enjoyed a trial subscription for two weeks, but when the review period started, I had to choose two boys to access.  I thought Mal needed the program more, so he was selected by me to continue.  Xavier was pretty disappointed, so I am debating adding him again myself.  He's a good reader already, as is Mal, but Eggspress offers comprehension and spelling through grade six.

Eggspress Activity Sheets

Merrick has barely used the MathSeeds program, but seems to have enjoyed what he did do last week.  I have a feeling he will want to continue using it for the rest of the subscription period.  I see on Facebook that Map 36 is now complete, but I didn't see activity sheets for that one yet.  Map 36 covers third grade topics like multiplication tables, equivalent fractions, and angles.  MathSeeds has had much content added to it since we last accessed it.

Mathseeds dashboard stats

Easy to use tabs
So, just *how* do you get started with Reading Eggs anyway?  After you open an account and add your child(ren), you'll see their little avatar tabs across the top of the Family Dashboard.  Click the tab for the child you want to work with first.  Below the child's tab, you see the program tabs.  As the parent, you probably have a pretty good idea in which program to place your children, so select the appropriate reading program.  Click the big, green START button, select "lessons" in the center of the page and you will be prompted to either take the placement test or to start at the beginning instead.  I *highly* recommend using the placement test.  Try to not be overly helpful while your child works, or they could be placed in a level that is too high and that could be frustrating for them.

Reading Eggs*
While the placement activities are super helpful, there's always a chance you might need to adjust the level.  You can do this right at the Parent Dashboard.  By selecting "edit details" on the same first tab covered screen (it's opposite the green START button), you can adjust each child's progress.  I attempted to do that for the sake of this review, but the computer warned me that his progress would be lost.  So, not even for you would I risk sabotaging the 722 golden eggs my boy is hoarding.

Merrick's homepage
Using pictures and words makes it very easy for Merrick to navigate from his own dashboard to the different games and his lessons.  Children move through a map of 10 lessons that ends with a quiz.  A subtle bit of blinking or movement, as well as their avatar, help direct them to click the current section of the map.  Once in a while an "annoying brother" makes too much noise and Merrick misses a bit of instruction or a word he is supposed to select.  There doesn't seem to be a way to repeat the directions.  Other than that, he is finding Reading Eggs easy to use and he really enjoys it.

Eggspress Map 5
I have to say that I'm sometimes confused by some of the stats on the parent dashboard.  For instance, Merrick has read several stories, but books read shows 0.  I think it may be that he hasn't read any of the books in the Reading Eggs library.  He has looked, but got a bit irritated with me because I directed him to books with a lower lexile reading level than he wanted, even though they were at his level.
Another level of Merrick's Reading Eggs access

I also receive emails detailing Merrick's progress in Reading Eggs.  These emails show me at a glance what he is accomplishing, learning, and earning.  There's even a link to the place in Reading Eggs where I can print his certificates.

Email information
If you have multiple users, be sure to log out each kiddo before letting the next one start.  There was one day that one of the biggers worked briefly on his brother's account.  Their names are on the student dashboard, but who reads such things before they begin working?  sigh...

Merrick loves Reading Eggs so much, it is always the first school he wants to do.  It's fun and engaging, they love most of the songs and stories.  I had to laugh when he got to a segment I remember from when the older boys had Reading Eggs.  The goat was singing and it's pretty repetitive.  Aaaaand goatlike.  Mal covered his ears (because it's a sound and that's what he does), but he smiled.  "I remember that!"  Reading Eggs bonus - sometimes there's even a train.

Some of the Reading Eggs lessons

Xavier got a huge kick out of one story that had characters named Xavier and Javier.  While I thought that was fun, I'm glad Mal hasn't seen his own name.  He gets weird about stuff like that.  There are comprehension questions built right into the online game, but parents can also print out the activity sheets with many more activities based on each lesson.

A page from Eggspress

Skills in these sheets vary, just like the games increase in scope as a child moves through the program.  The first lesson in the Reading Eggs activity sheets is all about the letter m; writing it, words that begin with the /m/ sound, identifying M written in various fonts, that kind of thing.  By the end of Reading Eggs' 12 Maps (120 lessons) students are practicing ay, igh, and oa words, and reading short passages and answering easy questions about it.  Each activity sheet begins with a page for the teacher/parent which explains the objectives of the lesson, the CCSS alignment, classroom games (often these can be played/completed by one child with no problem), extra assistance ideas, word families, etc.

The Bonus Tab and Activity Sheets

And now...

The folks at Reading Eggs have introduced new program guides just for homeschoolers.  These week by week overviews for grades K-2 use a colorful chart covering 36 weeks of education using Reading Eggs, MathSeeds, and some of the 2,500 books available in the Reading Eggs library to teach Language Arts, Math, Science, and History.  While Merrick is not exactly at the same place in math and language arts right now, by the recommendation.  I think it will be easy to use these guides to supplement, and possibly direct his science and history lessons for the year, though.  The pace of 1-2  Reading Eggs lessons in a week, looks just about right for what we've been covering without the guides.  They were just released last week, so I'm still becoming familiar with them, but they look great and I plan to incorporate them starting this week.

NEW Homeschool Guides for K-2nd grade

The reading games provide tons of fun online learning opportunities.  Nearly every one of them is completely do-able at the skill levels the punks possess.  There was one game that I had to complete for Merrick because there was no way he could operate the car quickly and accurately enough to move on.  I remember having to do that with a different game for the bigger punks a few years ago.  I seriously failed these poor kids.  It took me multiple tries myself to finish it so he could move on!  That was the day I tried to adjust his level, but you can't skip one game, only entire levels.

If you ever have trouble, support (including live chat) is just a click away.  You'll also find plenty of sample lessons for each of the four programs.

Support and Samples

I'm even more impressed with Reading Eggs than I was before.  The scope of the programs have really grown.  The songs, stories, and games combine to make learning fun and engaging.  The graphics are high quality.  Everything is inviting and colorful.  I've found the site to be quite easy to navigate.  Best of all, the punks still enjoy it.  That certainly makes it easy to motivate them to learn.

Reading Eggs has generously offered my readers a 4 week FREE trial of the Reading Eggs and MathSeeds programs to try for yourselves! Offer expires on November 30, 2017.  I hope you will take the plunge and use this risk free trial.


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