Cutest Blog and Widdlytink

My Stick Family from

Nov 25, 2016

Best of the Best ~ 2016 Crew Awards

After taking 2015 off from The Crew, we happily rejoined this year.  It has been a whirlwind of amazing homeschool products.  Many were return vendors we know and love and there were lots of fresh, new companies joining us, too.  Some curricula were on my "short list" for "some day" and some were wonderful surprises.  We used and reviewed just over forty products for The Homeschool Review Crew, plus some single reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which you'll also, eventually, get to read about here.

Last week, The Crew reviewers and their kiddos were all invited to vote for our favorite reviews of the 2016 run.  I have to say, this is probably one of the absolute hardest parts of being on The Crew.  You get to vote for *just one* thing in each category. It's incredibly difficult, sometimes, to narrow it down.

Meet the Homeschool Review Crew Curriculum Favourites for 2016

My personal *blog* requirements are a bit more lenient in that I allow us to choose several items in categories I want to use.  To simplify, I used subjects for the categories or I could go on and list nearly every review we did here. So, here goes.  Here are Redhanded Homeschool's High Fives for the 2016 Homeschool Review Crew.  All links will take you to my original reviews.

Malachi's High Five
Familyman Ministries' The Familyman's Christmas Treasury
We all like these stories so much.  Almost every time we get in the car, they ask me to play Cootie McKay, Captain Chaos, or The Stranger.

Xavier's High Five ("Obviously.")
Stopmotion Explosion's Stopmotion Animation Kit
We've all liked this and have made it a bit of a hobby.  I'm even teaching the kids at co-op a class based on the information I learned from SME and other kits, and videos we've been using.

Merrick's High Five
Talking Fingers, Inc.'s Read, Write, & Type
Who doesn't like teaching pesky Vexor a lesson for bad behavior?  And there's the bonus of learning to read, write, and type as you go.

My High Fives for Moms
Love, love, love this one!  I've tried freezer cooking before, but it was always overwhelming to me.  Not anymore!
While on the surface, is for classes, there are also tons of resources for moms and the whole family.

Most of the following products are favorites that we have finished, kept using through the year, or will be using in the future.

Language Arts
LOE Foundations A 
Merrick used several reading and writing programs this year and he (and BooBear, his teddy) really enjoyed this one.

IEW's Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization
"Ooey gooey was a worm..."  We all had a blast studying and memorizing poetry this year.  This program will be with us for years to come.

Progeny Press' The Sword in the Tree e-guide
This was a really good study based on a book that really held their attention.

Can Do Cubes from
While Merrick liked using these with Jolly Phonics, the beauty of these cubes is that they can be used with any program.  All of my kids like manipulatives.  Why not have them in LA also?

Language Arts ~ Honorable Mention 
I have one honorable mention again this year.  This is a *great* writing program, but we just weren't able to finish it for various reasons.  I almost held a co-op class in my home using Here to Help Learning, but we had a bunch of balls in the air at that time and I couldn't figure out a good time to do it.  I'd be so happy to use it again sometime, though. 

I love this math times 1000!  Malachi especially does well with it.  He worked tirelessly this summer to get his scores up in multiplication, working the section over and over.  I was so proud of him, but more importantly, he was proud of his own achievements.  We use CTCMath almost every day.

Math ~ Honorable Mention
It's a game.  It's math.  It's Sunya the Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Adding & Subtracting.  This is a fun card game (with a really long name) for memorizing math facts and comes in multiplication and division as well.  We should use it more often.  And get Merrick playing it with us.

Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd edition
We had a great time using this edition with Merrick (and Xav who can't get enough science).  I'd used the first edition with Mal and Xav years ago.  We have loved each Apologia science we've used.

Social Studies 
Heirloom Audio 
We love every. single. one. of Heirloom Audio's Henty titles we've heard.  Most we received through The Crew, but we've also listened to a few I purchased.  I love the downloads that come with the CDs including the study guide which turns the stories into a nice historical unit.

Zeezok Publishing's Music Appreciation 
Not only is this an AMAZING music appreciation curriculum, it also has a lot of historical information in it as well as a focus on positive character traits.

Memoria Press' Traditional Logic hurt my brain.  I obviously don't have a high schooler, so I worked on this course my own self.  It's a great program.

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Spanish Starter Set
This was such a fun video Spanish class.  The boys love that it takes place on a day in the life of three brothers.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Elementary Chinese 1
This is the third course we've used from Middlebury and our first foray into Chinese.  It's a great program and I liked that it also taught some characters and had special paper to download for writing practice. 

Just For Fun  
The Pencil Grip's Kwik Stix 
We bigfatpuffyheart Kwik Stix tempera paint.  They were easy to use and worked great on paper, cardboard, wood, and canvas.

Enlivenze FlipStir
Enclosed puzzles with no loose pieces.  What's not to love?  They're fun and challenging.

Special Category - Best Gift
CrossTimber Name Meaning Gifts
I had to include CrossTimber, but it isn't curriculum or a puzzle, so...  New category invented.  Check.  Hey, it's my blog and these are my favorites.  I'm not sure if the best part about CrossTimber is that they can make something meaningful for *any* name, or seeing how happy you can make someone with one of their Name Meaning Gifts.

You can see how the official voting of The Homeschool Review Crew went on the blog.

Nov 22, 2016

Our Family Grew By Two

I wanted to spell that "tew" so the rhyme would be spelled the same.  Alas, tew is a real word and it would definitely have changed the meaning!

Our kitty (God love him) is about 14 and he just isn't the mouser he used to be.  We were overrun with chipmunks this summer.  We had decided to get a new kitten, but, really how excited would a 14 year old male be about an adorable, playful kitten?  Not so much, right?  A friend from our homeschool co-op had a litter of three month old kitties all ready for a new domicile. We decided to get two.  They can bug each other and leave Stitchy alone. Mostly.  They were outdoor kittens, so love to be outside already.  They're in for the long winter while they grow and then they can head out there and chase some vermin in the spring.

Meanwhile, they're loving (and hating) all the attention from the punks.  They're playing with crinkly, feathery toys.  They get the kitty treats from time to time while we teach them to come when we call.  They're chasing the laser pointer.  They enjoy naps in my chair, of all places.

Meet Earl (Gray) and Hobbes.
 If there's a hiding place in the house,they've found it.  I can't tell you how many times we've gone looking for them!  The shelf under the kitchen table is a favorite.  I keep finding the history books I keep there on the floor.  They're acclimating well to spending all their time indoors right now.

Nov 19, 2016

Let it Snow!

While the boys are waiting for more snow outside (we haven't had a decent snowfall since the one in October), Merrick found a way to allow C3PO to partake of a favorite winter pastime.  Here he can be seen making snow angels.  This is very similar to a scene that was cut from The Empire Strikes Back.

The punks are hopeful to get some snow soon for their own angels.  The forecast is calling for some next week.

Nov 10, 2016

My Journey ~ Weight Loss October 2016

It finally happened!  Wahoo!  I have some new bling.  25 pounds! 

To celebrate reaching the half way point of my major goal (It's confusing, I know, but I have a final goal and I've broken it down.  Thirds weren't a fun number so, I have two halves -25# each- and then another 10-15 pounds after that.  Makes total sense, right?), I got my hair cut.  Like, over ten inches.  When I have reached the second half of the goal, I will probably be getting it cut even shorter, in a really cute style I like.

Nov 9, 2016

The Critical Thinking Co. ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

"If we teach children everything we know, their knowledge is limited to ours. 
If we teach children to think, their knowledge is limitless." 
~ Michael Baker, President

The Critical Thinking Co.™ is a family business founded nearly 60 years ago.  Their focus is teaching children how to think critically and problem solve while educating them in the more traditional subjects of language arts, math, science, and history.  What is critical thinking? defines critical thinking as "disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence."  Learning to employ critical thinking can improve grades and test scores in the school years, but will also better equip children to thrive in adulthood.  Through their Critical Giving program, the company donates two or more products to children in need with every purchase.

Language Smarts is a series of books for grades 1-4.  Language Smarts™ Level E is for grade 4.  The colorful 392 page paperback workbook can be used as your core language arts curriculum or as a wonderful supplement to most any grade level textbook.  The website has sample pages available for each level, as well a multitude of other great products. 

Under the Standards section, the pages which teach critical thinking skills (which are emphasized throughout the workbook) are highlighted.  Following that, the contents are sorted by topic and listed in an easy to use table.  Some of the concepts and skills taught in Language Smarts Level E are normally taught in fifth grade.

Some of the *Very Many* topics covered in Language Smarts Level E
  • Word parts
  • Spelling
  • Reference materials
  • Grammar
  • Writing
  1. Sentence fragments
  2. Punctuation
  3. Capitalization
  • Reading and Writing
  1. Similes and Metaphors
  2. Context clues
  3. Genres
  4. Reading comprehension
  5. Poems
  • The Writing Process
  1. Narrative
  2. Opinion
  3. Informative

Brief, but clear, instructions are given on each page.  These should suffice unless your child is struggling.  Hopefully, you can guide them through any further instructional needs.  No parental preparation is necessary for this open and go workbook.  WooHoo!

After the lessons, there are often some crossword puzzles, or riddles like these.

Using Language Smarts daily and completing two pages at a time will complete the book in a school year.  We used it several days each week due to co-op and appointments.  Since we school about 210 days/year (rather than the typical 180), this would still work very well with our schedule.

The Language Smarts Level E workbook is so incredibly thorough, it's an inch thick.  That does make it difficult to write near the spine of the book.  Xav actually writes about two inches in from the center which limits the space he has for writing.  A spiral binding or perforated pages would be really helpful in this instance.

The copyright for the original purchaser is very lenient and allows for a classroom or family to make copies of all the pages.  I'm pretty tempted, though, to purchase a book for each of the boys to use individually.  In part, because it's a great product and because it would be easier than copying for each boy and having to keep track of loose pages!  On the other hand, black and white copies would probably be less expensive.  You have to decide for your family whether thrift or convenience is more important.  If you want to use the Language Smarts workbook for multiple children, though, it might actually be better to purchase the ebook and print only the pages you need, when you need them.

We'll be continuing to use Language Smarts Level E.  The bigger littles haven't covered a ton of grammar and writing to this point, because I've been so focused on the math aspect.  I can no longer put it on the back burner and this workbook has been a life saver!   I can even see getting these for Merrick when he is ready for first grade.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention some really great software downloads from The Critical Thinking Co.™ also.  Their Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!  program contains the same software that some other Crew members are reviewing (plus Smart Abacus).
Alphabet Song Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download
Grades: Toddler-1 | New Version 2.0
Letter Sounds Song and Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download
Grades: Prek-1
Vowel Sounds Song and Game™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download
Grades: Prek-2
Fun-Time Phonics!™ Software - 2-PCs Win Download
Grades: Prek-2

Read the post about the importance of preschool academics.  And as a happy surprise, the Alphabet Song Game Software is FREE for a limited time.  If you have a little one in those early years, go check it out!
Please click the graphic below to go to the Homeschool Crew blog and check out some of the software available to your young child.  The Crew also has reviews for Sentence Diagramming: Beginning for grades: 3-12+.

Find The Critical Thinking Co.™ on social media.

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

Crew Disclaimer

Nov 4, 2016

Christmas Comes to America, Homeschool Legacy Unit ~ A Homeschool Crew Review

What *is* a Once-A-Week unit study from Homeschool Legacy?
Once-a-week unit studies are basically just what the name implies.  One day each week is spent doing the bulk of the study.  Reading is done every day.  Preparing for the studies simply involves gathering the recommended media from the library and collecting supplies for the weekly activities.  Approximately half a dozen activities are assigned each week.  These include recipes, geography, research, and more.  The studies are Biblically grounded.  They're designed for grades 2-12, but the whole family can be easily included, especially in the read-aloud, movies, music, and games.

We're using the Christmas Comes to America Once-a-Week Unit Study which is a historical look at the traditions of Christmas as brought from other countries to our melting pot.  This fun, light study is perfect for a busy December.  Don't stress yourself out by adding to your heaping holiday plate.  Take it easy and commit to one day a week to focus on this special holiday.

While using the Christmas Comes to America study, your young man can earn his Boy Scouts' Music badge and American Heritage Girls will earn the bulk of their Music Appreciation badge requirements.

This study is certain to get you into the Christmas spirit.

Each week, we studied a different country and the Christmas traditions that were brought to America through those who emigrated here.  I'm French, Dutch, and German, so it was fun to read about some of my (great) grandparents' childhood traditions.
  • Week 1 - The Dutch
  • Week 2 - The English
  • Week 3 - The German
  • Week 4 - An American Christmas (sort of how it all adds up to what we now view as a Classic American Christmas.)
Daily activities are *just* for reading.  The children can read on their own or be read to and then a family read-aloud is read each day.  In this unit, you will read about one Christmas tradition each day all month long as well.  The unit activities are only completed on the one day you decide to set aside for the unit work.
Going to the library - Books, Music, and DVDs
The ample book selections ensure that you are certain to find at least some of the books in your local library system.  I decided to stick only with books at the libraries I frequent, rather than order books through inter-library loan.  That plan worked out pretty well for the main unit book list, but I did have a harder time finding things for each weekly section.

Books are listed by age ranges, non-readers first.  They also include the Dewey decimal classification for ease of locating books with similar topics.  There are books for every age and ability, including a read-aloud selection for the family to enjoy together.  You'll find a wide range of books and movies: fiction and non-fiction, historical, classics, and more modern.

The DVDs are great choices for a family movie night.  Each film on the suggested list has been carefully screened for suitability for the whole family.  Everything from The Nativity Story (a beautiful film) to How the Grinch Stole Christmas are on the list.

Musical options were of a diverse nature with orchestras, jazz bands, country music, and choirs.

Gathering Supplies
A supply list is included at the beginning of each week.  It includes things like a globe, ingredients for recipes, poster board, blank note cards and so on.  Just pull together the items you'll need beforehand.  Some things you'll use each week, other items you'll only need once.

Don't forget your Bibles.  These devotionals are for the whole family.  You'll look at Old Testament prophecies and how they were fulfilled by Jesus. 

Other assignments will include research questions so students learn to look up information on the internet or in encyclopedias, geography, music study, history, science language arts, movie nights, making Christmas cards, etc.

How We Used the Unit
Xavier told me he "felt like Christmas" until he looked out of the window.  It definitely had us all feeling Christmas-y one our unit study days.

The cooking activities were favorites here.  Merrick and Xavier love to be in the kitchen "helping."  We made a birthday cake for Jesus and took turns blowing out the candle for Him.  We hadn't done that in many years.  I'm not even sure if I have made one since Merrick was born.  The guys *really* liked the idea.  And the dessert.

We listened to the audio of How the Grinch Stole Christmas as well as hours of Christmas songs of various types.  We mostly took advantage of Pandora to listen to Christmas tunes for hours at a time.  Malachi normally likes silence during school work, but one day as I went to turn off the music for desk work, he was pretty insistent that I should leave it on.

It's still a bit early for caroling, so we decided to plan a caroling party for next month since we couldn't really justify doing it in October!  We're definitely looking forward to hosting everyone after the caroling and serving a couple of lovely, hot beverages we learned to make from this unit study.

Dad apparently told the boys we might have a real tree this year (another thing we rarely do), so now they're gathering pine cones for an after-Christmas tree for the birds.

We wrapped up the unit playing a Christmas trivia game using the questions and answers from the study.  Games are such a great way to review and really cement the information the kids are learning.

Unit studies are a fun way to learn and great for shaking up the text book days my boys find so "boring."  I get so wrapped up in making sure the kids are learning "what they're supposed to be learning," I always forget that school can be educational and enjoyable.

Not ready to feel the Christmas cheer?  Now would be a great time to purchase the Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims six week micro-unit from Homeschool Legacy..

Click the graphic below to read some of the Crew's reviews of other units.

Find Homeschool Legacy on Facebook

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

Crew Disclaimer

Nov 1, 2016

Incoming What?!

Caller ID often has some interesting numbers show up.  We've received calls from *ourselves* (literally, our own name is calling us), the IRS, and this very special call that showed up over the summer.  I'm pretty sure it was a wrong number!