Tag Archive TOS Crew


5 Days Of Crafty Lessons – Introduction And Teaching Influence With Tissue Paper

*This post may contain affiliate links


Welcome to the 5 day Summer blog hop with the Schoolhouse Review Crew! It’s rather exciting, isn’t it? 90 bloggers all sharing their tips, advice, methods, and more for 5 days? I have a feeling Raising Sticky Hands To Heaven’s and my personal Pinterest boards are going to be blowing up! For those of you who have never visited our blog before, I’m so glad you’re here and hope you’ll stick around. (Wow, I promise there was no pun intended there.)


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For this blog hop, my topic will be Crafty Lessons. This method comes pretty easily to me, because there are 3 things I just love to do: Talk, teach my children, and crafts. By teaching with crafty lessons I am able to do all 3 of those in our homeschool.


How to teach using CRAFTY LESSONS Exploring education with a craft


How exactly does one teach with a craft lesson? Well, first, you have to get creative. I usually use this method for something that would be otherwise difficult for my children to grasp. Let’s take for example, teaching my children the importance of caution with who they allow to influence them, and the influence they have on others lives. That would normally be nearly impossible to explain to a 5 year old, but I noticed that in his little life this was something he really needed to understand. I was able to teach this lesson to my son Tommy in a way that he would not only fully comprehend, but remember and put into use while having a tangible reminder of the lesson that he learned.

So you have your concept that you need to help your child grasp. How do you use a craft to teach it though? Some of lessons are pretty easy. For example there are a plethora of ways to explain blood cells, planets, or the alphabet with a craft. But some concepts, and even full subjects, are much more complex.

When this happens, there are a few things I do. First I either look at the text book we are using or just go straight to google. I get a visual picture of what I am going to be teaching. (If it is not something physical, I use a dictionary to get a clear definition.) Then I do some research to find out every single detail of what I am dealing with. Crafts can sometimes come out looking not quite right if you don’t get the little details just right.

Next, I consider 1 of 2 things. If it is a physical object that is the focus, I make a list of supplies that would have a similar texture to the item. (Never be afraid to just have the child paint or draw a VERY detailed and labeled picture of what you are teaching if it is just going to be way too difficult to match up what you are teaching. While most lessons can be taught with a craft, once in awhile there is something way too difficult or expensive to recreate. That’s okay.) An example would be if for some reason I wanted to create a bear. I could use fur, felt, fleece, cotton, etc. For a concept, I would consider what exactly the action of that would be and try to think of a substance or material that could help bring the thought to life.

If at this point I am unable to have an epiphany that causes me to annoy my husband with my wonderful idea and call my mom and best friend to share my excitement, I hit google and pinterest and type in the substance or material I want to use and “craft”. Easy peasy.

At craft time, instead of the kids watching me while I explain the lesson, we dive right into the craft. As we are going about our time of fun, I talk… a lot. I explain every detail of not only what they are to do with the supplies before them, but what I am teaching them. I get very repetitive and let them ask me questions, and I ask them questions as well. Just as I love to have discussions with friends as we craft together, my children and I do the same.

This is a great way for my children to learn. They are very hands on, visual, auditory learners. Teaching them with crafty lessons just seems to be a great fit for them, among many other methods.

So just how did I explain the concept of influence? I don’t know how to explain it, but tissue paper bleeding just came to me. Tissue paper, especially the cheap low quality kind, bleeds when wet and stains everything it touches. The same goes for the influence of others on us. Not one single person we meet in our lives goes without touching us in some way. It’s just that some make more of a difference than others, particularly those we spend a lot of time with.


Teaching the concept of influence to little ones with tissue paper


For this craft, the supplies were:


This fun activity is so easy, a toddler can do it.  The best part is you don’t have to worry about a mess being made or taking a lot of time to clean up.


Toddlers Can Learn About Influence Too

Toddlers Can Learn About Influence Too!!!
(Pardon the mess, toddlers can also make HUGE messes while you gather your supplies…)



I had the children sit down and gave them each a white piece of card stock. I told them to pretend that this paper was them. Right away, before I got a big “huh?”, I had them help me rip the tissue paper into pieces of all different sizes. I explained during this time the meaning of the word “influence”. That there are people in our lives, like our pastor who are a good influence on us, for example our pastor. However, there are also friends and family in our lives that as much as we don’t like their actions or words that come out of their mouths, they still have an impact on our thoughts, actions, and words. We may not notice it right away, but eventually if we are not careful, the bad influence will start to seep in and do damage. I went on to explain that this damage can be repaired by carefully breaking bad habits and spending more time with those who have good influence, but we should be careful in who we select to spend a lot of time with or look up to.


Using a tissue paper craft to teach the meaning of influence


Next, we started placing one sheet of tissue paper at a time on various places of the card stock, “painting” the water on to the papers. This took about 10 minutes or so and was just enough time for us to talk about how we should not be mean to those who have a bad influence, but should show Christ’s love to them. That we should strive to be a good influence to others, especially those who are not always showing such great character traits. I used Acts 20:28 to point out that influence is mentioned in the Bible and that we are instructed to be cautious in our approach with others.  Tommy stated how sad he would be if someone else did something bad because of something he said or did. At that moment, I knew I got through to him.


<a href=Acts 20-28a NKJV Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers" src="http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Acts-20-28a-NKJV-Therefore-take-heed-to-yourselves-and-to-all-the-flock-among-which-the-Holy-Spirit-has-made-you-overseers.jpg" width="391" height="250" srcset="http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Acts-20-28a-NKJV-Therefore-take-heed-to-yourselves-and-to-all-the-flock-among-which-the-Holy-Spirit-has-made-you-overseers.jpg 391w, http://raisingstickyhands.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Acts-20-28a-NKJV-Therefore-take-heed-to-yourselves-and-to-all-the-flock-among-which-the-Holy-Spirit-has-made-you-overseers-300x191.jpg 300w" sizes="(max-width: 391px) 100vw, 391px" />


Hours later, when the papers were dry, we peeled off the dry tissue paper. Immediately Tommy noticed that there were both the “good” and “bad” colors on “him”. I made sure to point out that there were some parts where the blue was covered by red, so much so that the blue was very faded. The same goes for us, that when we have been influenced in a way that is not healthy, we can change our path and “fade out” the bad. Then Tommy taught me a lesson, “Mama, the paper can also be the earf (earth), and I want my influence on it to be good.” I think it’s safe to say, this crafty lesson was a success!


Teaching little ones the meaning of influence using tissue paper


Just in case you were wondering, I did choose the colors red and blue for a reason. Our home has a patriotic decor of red, white, and blue. Right now we are redecorating our entry way and hall way. Not only will these creations make great “art pieces” to hang on display, but they will be a reminder to our family as we head out the door to not only be cautious of others, but especially ourselves. (The semi star shape was total accident, how cool is that?)

So, what do you think? Like the idea of crafty lessons? Does it sound too complicated to you, or have you actually done some yourself?



Be sure to visit the other 90 bloggers on the Schoolhouse Review Crew participating in this blog hop by clicking the image below. Thanks for stopping by!
Summer Blog Hop

Psst… Don’t forget to head over and enter the Back To Homeschool giveaway and enter for your chance to win!



Back To Homeschool Giveaway! Kindle Fire HD, SchoolhouseTeachers.com, And MORE!

*This post may contain affiliate links.
It’s Back to school time! Some will be beginning school this week or month. Some (like our family) will begin next month. Some families have already begun the new school year! Regardless of when you begin, you likely need supplies and desire to be well equipped for the year ahead. One way to help you do that would be to follow along with 90 members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew this week as we have a 5 day blog hop, with each blogger writing about a different topic on homeschooling. I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts! Be sure to follow along with us this week for Raising Sticky Hands To Heaven’s part in the 5 day blog hop. I’ll be writing about Crafty Lessons! A fun way to teach your children in a different approach than the norm.
I’m joining with 10 other bloggers and 3 homeschool companies to give you the opportunity to win some terrific prizes to celebrate the start of the new homeschool year.
The GRAND PRIZE is a Kindle Fire 7″ HD Tablet!
And because we couldn’t possibly have a Back to Homeschool giveaway without some homeschool curriculum and encouragement, a second reader will win this awesome prize package, a $284 value!
One-Year Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com ($139)
Please stop by to visit the contributors to this giveaway:
Now it’s time to enter! Use the Rafflecopter below. All entries will be verified. Contest is open to U.S. Residents, age 18 and older. Other Terms and Conditions noted in the Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I can’t wait to see who wins these prizes. Talk about a blessing! May the odds be ever in your favor… 😉

I have another giveaway for a free ticket to Schoolhouse Expo coming up tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back and enter that one as well. (It was supposed to post yesterday, but silly internet issues prevented that from happening. )

This all reminds me I need to make my list for what we need to purchase for our homeschool this year… What’s the item on the top of your shopping list for homeschool this year?


Review: The Homegrown Preschooler

I must admit, I was skeptical. In the 4 years of homeschooling preschoolers that our family has accomplished, we have owned & checked out many books from Gryphon House . Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE everything this company puts out. But a book on homeschooling? I wasn’t so sure. Yet here I am, eating crow, because The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live has gone above and beyond my expectations on what any book on homeschooling preschoolers should be.

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Written by two homeschool moms, Kathy Lee & Lesli Richards, this book explains every bit of what it is like to homeschool a young child in every circumstance. Full of tips, recipes for meals, recipes for creative play and art, an amazing amount of ideas and activities, and timeless advice this book is the source that every mother that is homeschooling a preschooler, veteran or rookie, could use. Connecting with the authors comes right off the bat in the first few pages as they explain why they decided to homeschool and how much they love teaching their children at home. Kathy, a woman who studied early childhood development and had a career in the same category, states how much she loves seeing her child experience “aha moments”. Lesli explains how she learned that you don’t have to be perfect to homeschool. I couldn’t agree with both of the authors more.

The entire book is filled with a variety of sections. From child development to how to build your own sensory table, it covers it all. There is even a chapter on homeschooling your special needs preschooler, which was timely for me personally. There is even a section on adopting a preschooler! At the end of the book are checklists, a form for lesson planning, and plans to build helpful furniture for your own homeschool.

Review The Homegrown Preschooler


The first part of the book covers all the tips, evaluations, routines, development, ways of handing different situations, and more. The second part of the book is the fun: The activities, lessons, crafts, and ways to help your child learn.

The chapters of this book are as follows:

  • Introduction: Our Journeys To Growing Our Children At Home
  1. Homeschooling – Harvesting A Bountiful Life
  2. Learning Through Play
  3. Sowing The Seeds – Preschool Learning
  4. Setting The Stage
  5. Home Life = Learning – Slow Down And Teach
  6. Who Has Time For This?
  7. Organizing It All
  8. Days And Season That Don’t Fit In The Box
  9. Special Circumstances
  • Activities
    •  Home life
    •  Science
    •  Gross Motor
    •  Fine Motor
    •  Math
    •  Language Arts
    •  Art
    •  Social – Emotional

The book also includes an appendix and index at the end.


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For me, personally, I didn’t expect to learn as much as I have from this book. I thought that in my 4 years of homeschooling a preschooler that I knew all there was to know. I’ve read countless books, articles, and blogs. However, there were apparently many things I did not know. In my life I have never taken so many notes, underlined, highlighted, applied sticky notes, etc. in one book. Not even in college. I’m excited to state that our new homeschool year for 2013 – 2014 is going to look very differently than in previous years thanks to this book. For our Summer school, I have had the little ones follow most of the activities listed in this book such as dramatic play, hands on learning, constructive play, & playing with a purpose.

With the advice for busy moms, making goals, organizing it all, recipes, and more, my outlook and approach has improved. The book reminds me a lot of the Montessori approach, but is also different in it’s own way as it has a more relaxed way of going about it.

One of the many fun things we’ve done in our home are the busy bags and bins as suggested in The Homegrown Preschooler. Some for home, some for on the go. My little girl, only 2, now helps more with household chores and is learning all at the same time. My autistic son is loving the sensory ideas and our family is excited for my husband to build him the light and sensory tables as described in the appendix of the book. (Great for children without special needs, as well!) I will likely never buy “doughs” for play or bubbles again, as there are many recipes for different types that are so much fun, easy to make, and cost much less! Our outdoor play is more organized and fun. I could go on and on…

There is no specific or right way to use this book. Each day in our home is different. But The Homegrown Preschooler is now used daily in our homeschool, sitting on top of my daily planning binder for helping me plan my days. I am asked often by new homeschoolers on how to do preschool at home. From now on, I will be recommending this book. Every new (and veteran) homeschool-preschool mom should read this. It literally covers everything you can imagine.

I do want to mention one thing specifically: I have been ill this summer with a rare blood clot in a strange part of my body. This book covers homeschooling in difficult seasons of life. It has really helped me in how I approach each day while dealing with an illness and impaired from going about our days in the way we usually do. The book has also suggested how to help my children handle it all. Perfect for what we are going through right now, and has made quite the difference. Instead of sitting around whining about how we are not getting it all just right like we usually do, we are doing what we need to do. We are just going about it at a different routine.


The price of The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live is $29.95.



Want to read what others thought of The Homegrown Preschooler and another Gryphon House book, Global Art? Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.



Review: Circle Time – Planning The Best Part of Your Day From Preschoolers And Peace

I still remember when my husband, Bobby, and I first decided to homeschool. (Ironically, it was almost a year after we said up and down that we would never homeschool.) Having been a homeschool graduate, I was ecstatic. Tommy had just turned 2 and was begging us to learn. He asked so many questions and needed to be challenged. We figured we might as well get started… While it was early, I figured we could do simple toddler activities and enjoy our time together. I assumed that as my children got older it would be pretty easy, having 3 children in 3 years, to combine everything for them to learn a good amount of things together… Boy, was I wrong! I wish I had read Circle Time by Kendra Fletcher from Preschoolers and Peace then!

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Now, let me be clear. We have always had what we called “circle time”. Here’s how it was supposed to go: About 30-60 minutes of myself with all kids (in the Summer the older 2 are included): Begin with prayer, move right in to The Pledge of Allegiance, calendar time, weather, address & phone numbers, alphabet, counting to 100, quick review of what was learned the day before, memory scripture, Bible lesson, and story time. Ahh.. No. That’s not how it went. Not at all. It either took much longer while I tried to keep Johnny Ben from either escaping the room or dumping out art supplies and Molly begged and cried until I let her get out the crayons or turn on an educational DVD (The DVDs seem special to them because we are only allowed to watch those DVDs in the homeschool room… or I’m just that boring…) while Tommy shouted “Yay! Schools done! Can I play with :insert legos, playdoh, Wii, outside, or something else fun here: now?” or much shorter because I just gave up and moved on to what was next. Every. Single. Day. Kindergartener, Delayed Preschooler, & Toddler. Why did I think it would go so smooth?!

Our circle time made a sudden major transformation about 6 weeks ago. The kids didn’t know what to think and kept insisting I was doing it wrong. They had no idea I had read Circle Time or what I was doing, but after about 2 minutes they finally sat down and went along with it. In the book, there were… wait, I’m getting ahead of myself! I need to tell you about the book!

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Kendra Fletcher is a mom to 8 kids of which she homeschools. In a way to spend more time as a family and simplify life by teaching her children of multiple ages at the same time, she has circle time so that they are all able to learn various studies together. In Circle Time, she goes about outlining how she does circle time with her children, what has worked, what hasn’t, ideas for keeping little ones busy, things to use during circle time, words from others who have circle time and how they do it, and how to transition into the rest of the day while everyone does their individual studies.

While the book is a quick read of only 32 pages, it packs quite a punch! I was able to read it, take notes, use the printables, and plan the next days circle time in one night. Since then I have gone back and referenced this little book for more ideas. It has truly been a sanity saver.

The chapters are as follows:

  • Planning a Circle Time That Works for You
  • Strategies for a Peaceful Time Together
  • How to Get Your Kids on Board
  • Questions From Moms Like You
  • Words of Wisdom From Other Moms Who Do Circle Time
  • Resources, Activities, and Ideas
  • Printable Planner Sheets

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So back to where I left off… In the book, there are printable planning/idea sheets. The night before our first new and improved circle time, I filled them out and made a goal of how long I wanted our circle time to last. It included starting off with a new way of praying that is explained in Circle Time. (What a hit! The kids now spend time thinking of what they will pray for.) The rest all went so smooth and by the end, everyone was ready to sit down and do what they were supposed to do next. My children have learned a few scriptures (much more easily) and have begun to learn other memory work as well. Even on that first day, we far surpassed my initial goal for how long circle time should last. Mom is happy. The kids are happy. Johnny Ben isn’t trying to escape and Molly isn’t bored. Success! (I would have included a photo of us doing circle time, but we are always so wrapped up in it we always forget to take a picture. :/ Sorry.)

Circle Time is available at Preschoolers and Peace for $4.99 in PDF ebook format.


Circle Time was reviewed by other TOS Review Crew bloggers as well. You can click here to read their reviews as well. Enjoy!



Review: Couponing Made Simple By Christi The Coupon Coach

Ever go grocery shopping, feeling confident that you had found some great deals, only to be shocked by what the cash register is asking you to hand over? Same here. That’s why I was elated to be given the opportunity to review the book Couponing Made Simple by Christi The Couponing Coach.


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I had tried couponing in the past, but honestly it stressed me out. I spent hours trying to figure out what was worth clipping, trying to remember what I clipped, and then fumbling through the grocery store only to arrive home and realize I forgot to hand the cashier a coupon or became so stressed out that I didn’t use them at all. I kept pushing through, but when my husband had to take over grocery shopping for a short time after I had my last baby and refused to take coupons, I just got out of the habit.

Fast forward to a few months ago: We decided to take the plunge and become a cash only family. I’ll be honest and tell you it has been more than a challenge at times. But thanks to Couponing Made Simple, I have found a way to make it much easier.

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Christi’s book goes over ways to save while not cheating the system. Stacking coupons with items already on sale along with an easy way to keep it all organized that isn’t head ache inducing. The chapters are as follows:

  1. Success Stories
  2. A New Way to Shop
  3. The Language of Couponing
  4. Organization System
  5. Step-by-Step Process
  6. Tips & Tools
  7. Couponing Ethics
  8. Networking & Communicating
  9. Bonus Section
  10. Beyond Couponing

Christi goes into great detail in her book to explain how and where to find coupons, building a habit of looking for deals without it being a chore, and how to keep it all organized. She even explains how online forums for couponing work and the lingo!

I was able to read Couponing Made Simple in just a few hours split between 2 nights before bed. This book made me excited to grocery shop! I could hardly wait for the weekly coupons to come in the mail and even set an alert on my husband’s phone to remind him to pick up newspapers on Sunday mornings just in case I was unable to. He, of course, was skeptical and set two rules:

  1. No Stockpiling
  2. Only buy items we would normally use

The stockpiling rule bummed me out. As Christi states in her book, this isn’t about buying multitudes of items like they do in the reality shows, but hey, who doesn’t want to stock up on a few things when they are at a low price? However, striving to be a more submissive wife, I obliged.  Bobby also made a good point that we just don’t have the room in our home to contain more than what we are currently consuming.

After following her plan of looking, clipping, and organizing I set out on my first grocery trip. It all went so smoothly and I was so ecstatic to see I saved $80! I was apparently too happy though, as I now don’t remember what the total was or take a photo of how much we bought. But I can promise you, it was a LOT! My second trip, however, I remembered to track it all. This was a “quick” trip to the grocery store to get some easily made (mostly processed, not our usual fare) meals to help our family survive while we are beating the flu. Before I headed out, I scanned the coupons I had and made a list. My son and I were in and out of the store in 30 minutes and had bought quite a bit. The savings was 19%. Not bad for an unplanned trip!

Couponing Made Simple

Overall, I recommend reading this book if you are interested in saving money for your family and the idea of couponing overwhelms you. It truly does what the title says and makes it simple!

Christi The Coupon Coach’s book Couponing Made Simple is available in paperback for $18.00 or you can purchase her Kindle version for $4.99.


Want to hear what others have to say? Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.




Review: Christianity Cove

Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew, our family has been blessed to be able to review 2 products from Christianity Cove recently.

Christianity Cove logo

Christianity Cove is a company that offers curricula that is marketed to be used for Sunday School and Children’s ministries for Bible lessons, snacks, and activities, but can also be used in homeschools as well. Offering a large variety of topics and lesson types, there is pretty much something for every class or household. One of the biggest goals of Christianity Cove is to offer lessons that are simple to pull together, use items that are around the house or obtained at an extremely low price, and pack a big punch to get the message across in a way that not only kids will remember, but find fun at the same time. The products we were given to review were 28 Outstanding Object Lessons and Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit.

Object Lessons Logo

28 Outstanding Object Lessons was a huge hit not only with my children, but with myself as well. Using items that were literally right here in my home, I was able to teach my children a lesson about spirituality and God’s word.

I think my favorite was a lesson where I asked my children to lay on the cold hard floor and try to sleep. Now, I won’t lie. They hated it. But that was the point. I then gave them blankets and pillows to lay on and they found them selves warm and more comfortable. The moral of the lesson was that God protects us from a cold world.

The 28 lessons covered so many subjects. Considering that my children are 2, 3, and 5, (I’ll be honest and tell you that only the 5 year old paid true attention) there were some I knew they just wouldn’t get so I had to skip some. However, that was one thing I loved. I could pick and choose what lesson I wanted to do each day because they didn’t have to be done in order. There was little to no prep, the lesson is scripted (but can easily be adapted to your own words without having to stop and think of how to reword it), and it really caught the kids attention. What kid doesn’t get interested when you start pulling rags out of flashlight instead of batteries? How about asking them why your hair dryer isn’t drying your hair when it’s not plugged in? The lessons pulled Tommy in, kept him there, and later he still remembers the point of the story or action. Our family was not disappointed!  Christianity Cove offers this curriculum kit for $28.00.

Fruits Of The Spirit Logo

The Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit was also very fun! It taught us the principles of Godly character brought forth in Galatians 5:19-26. This kit came with printables, lessons, activities, snack ideas, games, and more. My kids LOVED that they got to get really hands on and eat a snack of fruit at the same time. This set was also scripted with the words for the teacher in bold, making it even easier to find where you left off, and included study notes for the teacher as well. This is an awesome set for older children. I’m not saying we didn’t like it and have fun, but some of the subject matter (such as drinking and sexual immorality) were not things I wanted to have to explain to my Kindergartener, Preschooler, and Toddler. The skills needed for some of the worksheets and activities were also over their head. Like I said, it’s a great set, just not for young children, in my opinion at least. Christianity Cove offers this kit for $19.00.

Overall, I was very pleased with the quality of these lessons and activities. Being that I have been sick lately, I was able to sit on the couch and easily do most of them without much physical effort. I didn’t have to spend a lot of money, and what I did have to buy were simple items that can be used again and again. The kids were happy, learning, and retaining. That made me extremely happy. I would also like to say that I really wish I had known about Christianity Cove when I was teaching Children’s Church for a short time. As with any Bible lesson, you do have to take some time to pray and prepare before you teach it to the kids, but this really made it all so easy. I would definitely recommend it.

(I’m sorry for not having personally taken photos for this post… As I mentioned, I have been ill for the last month or so, which explains the “brain fog” to only realize NOW that I didn’t take a single photo. Please forgive me! This review really does deserve photos… Lots of them! But it does not mean we did not enjoy it! We loved it!)

Many other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have also been reviewing various products from Christianity Cove. Be sure to click here and go find out what lessons they tried out and what they thought of them.



Review: Dr. Craft’s Active Play! Fun Physical Activities For Young Children

As many of you know, I have 3 children ages 5 and under living here at home with me. While Tommy is 5, my 3 year old, Johnny Ben, was recently diagnosed as being on the lower end of the Autism Spectrum and my youngest, Molly, is 22 months old. Sometimes coming up with physical activities that all 3 are capable of doing can be a challenge. One can only play so many rounds of the same game before they become bored or annoyed… So I was often found standing there playing Motor Boat or Ring Around The Rosey by myself with no one to play with me. Rejection, it’s hard stuff… So when I was given the  opportunity to review Active Play! Fun Physical Activities for Young Children by Dr. Craft’s Active Play Books I jumped at it.
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Active Play! is a book and DVD set of 52 activities that can be done easily, mostly using items you already have or can attain easily for low cost. Consisting of 8 chapters and a “Game Finder” that is a few pages long, the book is well written and has black and white photos to make it easy to understand what the author is trying to explain in the text.

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The first 3 chapters cover the need for active play in young children, going over how important exercise, proper nutrition, and safety are. It also went over how to go about including children who may not be physically able to play, are older, and how to use the activities in different settings along with how to go about gathering your equipment. While a lot of these topics might seem like common sense, I found them to be helpful and informative for the most part. It was especially nice to read about how to modify the games for Johnny Ben since I’m really new to learning how to adapt things for a child with special needs.

The next 3 chapters is the fun stuff, the activities. Active Play! activities for young children, infants and toddlers, school aged children, and families. I can honestly say I am not near creative enough to have come up with the ideas for most of these games on my own! The activities are not limited to just playing for the sake of play, but some teach other life and learning skills as well. For example, “Laundry Pick-Up” teaches children to… pick up laundry. 😉 There is also “Matching Numbers” which has kids running, jumping, galloping, hopping, and sliding while learning how to sequence and match numbers. There are more games that teach math, science, and social skills as well. I love that each activity in Active Play! is well written out by listing at the top the goals for the activity, the equipment needed, instructions, and then options to make it easier, harder, or add variety. Some games, such as “Matching Numbers” also includes instructions for making your own equipment. Some of the activities have to be done either outside or inside, but most are adaptable to be done either way which is nice. No worry about the whether or if your entire family is suddenly plagued by chicken pox! You can still play!

The last chapter is my most favorite part of all: A lesson plan! At first glance you might ask “Why do I need a lesson plan done for me to do activities with my kids?” However, if you’re a busy mom of littles like I am, it’s nice to have all the work done for you. The night before or in the morning all I had to do was see what game we would be playing and make sure I had all the items together in one spot ready to go. Set up for 20 weeks to be used 5 days a week, the lesson plan has a warm-up activity for each week and a more active activity for every day. If the game hasn’t been played before, it lists it as “new” so that you’ll be prepared to teach it to the children (and yourself). On Friday, you or the kids get to repeat a favorite. The lesson plans are set up so that the kids learn a few new games each week while repeating some in way that they learn a few games at a time before moving on to others. I really liked the way it was laid out.

At first I thought “Why a DVD?” but this actually turned out to be a nice addition for a few reasons. 1: I didn’t have to guess if I didn’t quite understand one instruction and 2: I could show the kids how to play the game before we played it. It was also handy this last week, as my children have chicken pox. They didn’t feel up to playing, but sure enough, they asked to watch this DVD so they could see other kids playing. That might sound REALLY sad, but it was actually their idea and they really enjoyed it. Not all of the activities are included on the DVD, but the page with the instructions has a little icon at the top telling you if it is on the DVD or not.

In addition to everything being all planned out for me in the lesson plans, being able to pull it all together so easily for little to no cost was awesome. When we first received the book, I made a list of things we might need and first looked around our home to see what we already had that we could use. What was left on the list was all acquired during one trip to the dollar store.

The cost of Active Play! Fun Physical Activities For Young Children is $39.00.

All in all, we love this activity book and will continue to use it for a few years, I’m sure.




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Review: Leadership Garden Legacy

Leadership Garden Logo photo leadershipgardenlogo_zpsf3754c7a.jpg

UNIQUE Kids book photo leadership-uniquekidsbook_zps3822722c.jpgAs parents, we all have a desire for our children to stand out and be natural born leaders.  As anyone who’s been tasked with shaping a young person knows, it’s not as simple as “just add water”. Providing a child with the skill set and ability to use it can be a challenge.  Enter Leadership Garden Legacy with  U.N.I.Q.U.E., by Deborah J. Slover.  We were sent a thoughtful and well put together kit, designed to pass important leadership tools to not only children, ages 5 to 12, but their older siblings and parents as well.

The book, U.N.I.Q.U.E Kids: Growing My Leadership Garden ($18.95) follows the story of a little lamb named Hugh as he wanders on to Leadership Farm. There he learns the values of leadership, how life choices he made could have turned things around had he handled them differently, and how to move forward in a more wholesome positive way. The book is full of metaphors, obviously stemming from the Leadership Garden theme, to help teach children life skills such as “Be nonjudgemental, Do not enable, Use empathy, Prune gossip, Eliminate blame, & Eradicate victimization” by following the story of Hugh. Our family completely agrees that these are all qualities that are extremely important. The only issue we had with this was that not only did Tommy really not get that the story was telling him that, but my husband and I both had to sit down and look over the materials and really scratch our heads to try and figure out how the story was relaying that, exactly. It’s really not an easy story to follow along with for an adult, so we had to stop every few minutes and explain what the story was trying to say to Tommy.

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The U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids Activity Guide ($8.95) follows along with the book, not only repeating the study questions at the end of each chapter, but suggesting activities that might be beneficial to learn along with the study. Some are directly related, some merely followed the theme of gardening and embraced another subject all together. Also listed in the guide were Common Core Alignments should that be something your family is interested in for your homeschool. While some sections of this guide made it easier for Tommy to understand what was just read to him, others made it even more confusing.

UNIQUE Kids MP3 photo leadership-kids-cdmp3_zpsaf402d56.jpgFinally, in the Children’s series, is the U.N.I.Q.U.E. Kids Audio Book – MP3 Download ( $8.95). I actually found this product extremely useful, and have since decided audio books are awesome for Tommy… Why didn’t I think of that before? The reader’s voice is friendly and easy to listen to. Each page has the little “ding” to tell you to turn the page as I remember they did when I was a kid. Tommy was able to guide his own reading and feel more independent even though I was within a few feet of him at all times.

Leadership Garden Guidebook photo leadership-adultleadership-guidebook_zpsf2bbaaad.jpgAlso included in the Family Tool Kit we received was the adult version of the book titled U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing The Leader Within ($18.95) and The Leadership Garden Guidebook ($18.95). The book is actually a more detailed version of the children’s book while also taking breaks to tell the author’s life story. The guidebook follows along with the book going through more reading and having you do written activities As with the children’s products, I was very excited to receive and try these items out for myself as I’ve always wanted to develop my leadership skills more. However, both the book and guidebook seemed off topic to me and had a difficult time keeping my interest peaked. I’m not saying they don’t have a purpose, however I’m not quite sure what the label for it would be. Leadership just wouldn’t be my first thought.

I honestly believe this is one of those types of products that many people love and it works for them, but our family is just too quirky for. We wanted so badly for it to work out, but our learning styles being different than many other families’ plays a part in here as well. (So please, if this is something that sounds like you might like, feel free to visit the website and reviews and don’t just go based on how it worked for the Schotts. That being said, because this is a Christian blog, I want to mention that this leadership curriculum is not Bible based. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I just don’t want you to assume it is as that is what you usually find on this site.)

Leadership Garden Legacy is offering a Spring Special Discount of 20% to all TOS Review Crew readers! To participate, enter promo code TOS-SS20D upon checkout. This is a limited time offer and the code will expire on May 31, 2013. In addition, they offer some discounted Tool – Bundle packages as well… And guess what! The code even works on them! What a great deal!


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Review: ABeCeDarian Company


For the last few weeks, our family has been reviewing the ABeCeDarian Company reading program. A carefully constructed reading curriculum created by Michael Bend, Ph.D, ABeCeDarian stands out amongst the rest in that it does not follow the normal format of other reading programs. (While I can not say much about other reading programs because this was the first one we used, I have looked at many of them and I can tell you that this one’s approach is definitely different. In fact, it was much different from the way I learned to read!) Gone are sight words and most phonics rules. In it’s place is sounding out letters to make words, using a multi-sensory approach by “touching” the letters, and learning all the sounds in each word instead of just memorizing it by appearance.

This program consists of 4 levels for children in Kindergarten through 6th grade. Level A is for children just starting out, struggling, or in Kindergarten through the middle of 1st grade. Level B is for children reading at the middle of 1st grade through 2nd grade range. Level C is for children reading at a 3rd grade and 4th grade range. Level D is for children reading at a 5th and 6th grade range. Before beginning, it is suggested that you use the placement test to know where to have your child begin.

Our family was given the Teacher Manuals for A-1, A-2, & B-1, the Student Workbooks for A-1, A-2, & B-1, the Set of 10 Storybooks, and ABeCeDarian Aesop. As Tommy just starting out with reading, we only used the following:


Teacher Manual A-1 – $28.50


Student Workbook A-1 – $12.25


Set of 10 Storybooks – $21.50

IMG_20130409_155624_716Before I could begin planning walking Tommy through his lessons, there was a TON of reading ground to cover in the teacher’s manual. For most, it probably wouldn’t seem like a lot of reading. However, for me, it was during a time that we had a lot going on and I had to force myself to find time to do all the reading. That being said, if you diligently take the time to read and understand the teacher’s manual before you begin, you won’t have to spend a lot of time planning (hence my crossing it out at the beginning of this paragraph.) The first section of the teacher’s manual helped me understand more about learning to read than I ever knew before and how to help my son learn to read on his own. I learned how to teach using “Turtle Talk” (sounding out the letter sounds), “People Talk” (saying the word normally), “Tap and Say”, “Error Game”, word puzzles, and more. I actually felt well prepared to begin with Tommy on the first lesson even though we had never tried a formal reading plan before.

IMG_20130409_155737_435That being said… Remember how I said I had learned to read a different way? Yeah, old habits die hard. You know what else is hard? A tough as nails stubborn little 5 year old who wants you to take the easy way out and pretend he either 1: doesn’t know how to do this even though he’s constantly begging you to teach him how to read or 2: whine, distract, and just all around act out. We didn’t have this problem EVERY day, but the first few weeks were a bit brutal, if I’m to be honest. Does that have anything to do with the curriculum? No. I just believe in being transparent and want you to know that we, like every other family trying to teach their child to read, have had some struggles.

Now, once I got all those “old rules” out of my head, re-read some of the teacher’s manual, and I had a “come to Jesus” talk with Tommy, things got better. We went back to the beginning of the books and started fresh after taking a break for a few days. One thing that made each lesson significantly easier for me as I tried to keep Tommy’s attention was that it was basically scripted for me in the teacher’s manual. The point of the lesson and instruction is all in regular font. However, the part of each lesson that they would like you to say out loud to your child is in bold italics, making it easy for ME to keep my place and remember where I am as we move throughout the book.

IMG_20130409_160034_202I wish I had taken video the first time Tommy read a word on his own without error or correction. Why? Because he didn’t realize that he actually read it and it was HYSTERICAL! Once the realization hit him, he was jumping up and down, shaking, passing out high fives around the house, and begging to call his grandparents and tell them. Tommy was laughing, I was crying tears of joy & relief that this wasn’t going to be years of struggles, and the other 2 kids just looked at us like we were a bunch of nuts. After our struggle the first 2 weeks, I didn’t expect him to really get it as quickly as he did. I thought it would take a few lessons for him to be reading a word on his own, let alone 3 words by the end of that week and the next week 6 words. (Just a warning: If you happen to meet Tommy in person he is going to spell every word he knows for you now… Be prepared.)

Tommy is now following the flow of the curriculum (Like a GOOD boy… This whole not being in preschool anymore is a bit of an adjustment for him…) and learning a little more every day.

It is recommended that the lessons be taught once a day, 4-5 days a week. In A-1 there are 27 lessons divided into 5 units. This is the plan we are following, but like I said, we went back and started over at one point and if you have to also, that’s okay. What matters is that the lesson is done right, not fast. 😉

A few years ago when we first decided to homeschool, my pastor’s wife/co-pastor Sis. Pam Howard gave me some great advice. She had taught homeschool herself, so I listened closely. I can’t remember the exact words, but she basically told me that if I can teach my child to read, I’ve overcome the biggest fear and struggle as a homeschooling parent and that it would all be downhill from there. (If I got that wrong, please correct me, Sis. Howard!) Naturally, I agreed with her. Now, thanks to ABeCeDarian? Well… I’ll let you know when we get to Algebra. 😉



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Review – Adventus MusIQ Homeschool

When I was offered the chance to review Adventus‘ product MusIQ Homeschool, I was ecstatic.

Music is very prevalent in our family. My husband plays a number of instruments and I like to think that I can play piano. I grew up with a piano in the home and began lessons at a young age. When there are no other adults in the house, I often sit down and play a few songs and sing at the top of my lungs. (My neighbors probably hate me, ha!)

As a result, a few of my children have been trying to talk me into teaching them to play the piano. Driving them to and from lessons would be really difficult as we are a one car family right now, and while I know how to play the piano… Like I said, I’m not good at it. So when I heard about a piano curriculum software that would put me in control, could be done at home, and would teach my children to play piano effectively, relief came over me. What I didn’t expect was for MusIQ Homeschool to be more than just another computer software hooked up to a keyboard.


Adventus MusIQ Homeschool is an award winning complete curriculum for learning to play the piano. If you were to start at the very beginning, it would entail 7 years of instruction, completing over 20 levels. It is appropriate for ages 4-18 (or older), can be started at the beginning or at a higher level, and covers much more than just learning to tickle the ivories. It is broken down into volumes as follows:

For ages 4-10, running on Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000 or Macintosh OSX

  • Children’s Music Journey Series Volume 1
  • Children’s Music Journey Series Volume 2
  • Children’s Music Journey Series Volume 3

For multi learning ages 10+, running on Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000

  • Piano Suite Premier
  • Ear Training Coach 1 & 2
  • Ear Training Coach 3 & 4



When it comes to purchasing the product, you have options. The first option is to buy the curriculum one series at a time on CD-ROM. The second option is a subscription service. For $10.95 a month you are given the ability to download not one, but all 7 years of lessons at once. In my opinion, this is the best option as you can have family members using the software at different levels and only have to pay a small fee instead of purchasing multiple levels. (You will have to have a working internet connection on the computer you use for your piano lessons though.) If you would like, you may also purchase lesson plans that have descriptive objectives, activity sheets, and more.

Practicing with Miss Melody

Practicing with Miss Melody

In addition, you will need a MIDI keyboard or a MIDI adapter. Adventus does offer keyboards for sale. We bought the lowest priced keyboard (M-Audio KeyRig 49) from them and find it adequate to our needs. It only works while connected to your computer via USB and will not work standing alone. Since we own a piano this was not a concern for us so it worked out to be the perfect option.

Obviously, we have yet to do more than a few weeks of this amazingly broad curriculum, so for the remainder of this review I will focus on the only series we are currently using, Children’s Musical Journey Series Volume 1.

Starting out, we hit a few glitches. Our computer and the keyboard didn’t want to recognize each other. Adventus offers technical support, but before calling them I asked my husband (a technical engineer) to look at it and he figured it out and had it fixed in a few minutes. Later I realized there were instructions for this sort of issue, so if I had only been patient and read a little I would have prevented this problem. Lesson learned… 😉

Once we had all the bumps smoothed out, I created a profile for Tommy. Then the next day, I created another profile because I had forgotten what his password was. (Yes people, I am REALLY that ditzy. I’m telling you, I am seriously letting you all in on way too embarrassing stuff about me lately!) This time I let him pick out his password since I figured Mr. I-forget-nothing would be able to help me if I ever forgot again. Anyways, in the profile you have parental settings that can be adjusted for free play, normal, or strict lesson flow. Here you also have the ability to see what lesson your child is on and how far they have completed it.

Now we were all ready to get started. You begin with “rooms” to choose from: There is the library, where you can listen to different pieces of music, go back to old lessons, play music, or listen to music you yourself have composed. The game room where you can play lesson enforcing games that are unlocked based on how many lessons you have completed. The lesson room, where you meet with the composer you are working with. The practice room, where Miss Melody encourages you to practice. And last there is the improvisation room for you to compose your own music. Being that the suggested use of the curriculum is 1-2 lessons a week and practice daily, in our family we begin with the lesson and then do each of the other rooms the remainder of the week, being sure to visit the practice room at least twice.

Learning from Beethoven

Learning from Beethoven

Remember how I said this was more than just learning to play the piano? I’m finally going to explain that! The lessons are actually taught by cartoon caricatures of famous composers, and guess what?! They aren’t annoying! The program begins with Beethoven for the first 5 lessons. Right now, Tommy is learning from Bach. During the piano lessons, they mention little tidbits of their lives, music, and compositions… Meaning that Tommy is learning music and composer history without having to purchase a separate curriculum. At the beginning and end of each lesson, the composer plays a piece of their own music. I was surprised to find this was one of Tommy’s favorite parts.

The lessons are far from the same style I was taught, but I believe this way may actually be far more effective. To begin, the children are taught that there are “high bird notes” and “low whale notes”, using cartoon animals and an ocean to differentiate the two. Next they are introduced to “Middle C”, which is a man on a boat. Pretty cool, right? As of today, Tommy is learning rhythm and has started learning to look at notes as dots instead of animals.  It has amazed me with how well this program has taught him so far. The way the characters explain the lesson is very clear, precise, and easy to understand making it very simple to retain. Each lesson is probably about 10-15 minutes, which is just right for Tommy’s attention span.

In case you didn’t notice, I’m impressed! So much so, that I’m going to be using this program myself soon, so obviously we will be continuing our subscription service once our review period has ended. I can’t say enough great things about this curriculum! Adventus MusIQ Homeschool is probably my favorite curriculum right now.

Right now Adventus MusIQ Homeschool is offering a free 7 day trial, the perfect option if you already own a keyboard and are still not sure. But take my word for it, you’re going to want to keep it going!


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