Category Archive Reviews

ByAngie

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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ByAngie

Review: Leadership Garden Legacy

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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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ByAngie

Review: ABeCeDarian Company

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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:

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Teacher Manual A-1 – $28.50

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Student Workbook A-1 – $12.25

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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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ByAngie

Review: Chaos…Simplified The Womans {life} Planner

As promised a few days ago, I am bringing you some tips and ways that I have managed to “survive” the last year of extreme chaos in our lives. Unfortunately, our website has been acting a little finicky so that I haven’t been able to post ANYTHING the last few days. FINALLY today I’m able to get on here. What a relief! So without further ado, I am sharing the biggest help to my life recently.

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For the last few months, I have had the pleasure of looking over and using The Womans {life} Planner by Chaos… Simplified. The name of this product is truly a perfect fit for how it has affected my life! I could literally talk about what a wonderful tool this product is non-stop. Just ask my family that I’m spending the weekend with in Palm Springs right now on a Mother/Daughter retreat… They might have said, “Okay, we get it. Just order us some already…”

In my life I have used SO many planners and organizers. I’ve tried making my own to fit my life. I’ve spent big bucks on electronic gadgets and books. I’ve even tried the whole white board organization system. I am honest in admitting to anyone I have a real problem with time management, remembering tasks, and staying on top of general organization of what needs to be done when. Disarray, people. That is my life without some sort of system in place.

Chaos… Simplified, the brain child of Corri L. Bitner, has taken the chore of keeping it all together out of the equation. With The Womans {life} Planner, in one easy to carry binder that easily fits in a average sized purse, you have everything a busy Mom on the go might need. Actually, I need to clarify: Almost everything. As my Mom pointed out, it does not have a cup holder. Other than that, it’s all there.

The Womans {life} planner is technically two products in one. It begins with The Womans {week by week} Planner.

The Womans {week by week} Planner is a spiral bound week by week formatted calendar and organizer. When you first open it up, there are a few pages of scripture, encouragement, and suggestions from the author along with some snippets of articles that she feels are helpful. Reading these pages I found myself nodding my head in agreement and quickly circling and underlining every part that I particularly liked. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that I’ve changed my thoughts on being hospitable… This system has truly changed my life in ways I never imagined, and this area is one of them.

Chaos... SimplifiedIn addition, there are sections to jot down birthdays, a 5 year plan for events and goals, go to meals, cleaning agenda, (LOVE this!), holiday planning, wish list, budgeting, websites & passwords, important numbers, and addresses.

Each day of the weekly calendar is broken down into today’s top 3 priorities followed by an area to write down lists and plans for the day. THIS has been my saving grace! I can write the 3 things that MUST be done that day at the top where they are easily seen and not forgotten. There is also a little area for tracking how much water you are drinking every day, with 8 droplets of water at top under today’s priorities for you to check off as you drink throughout the day. Each week also has a section for things to do, phone calls to make, and notes. Again, all things that I needed to keep track of. Having it all in one place and at a glance has truly made my life much easier.

The Womans {life} Planner is the binder that holds it all. Containing 5 note pads, The Womans {week by week} Planner, and an area to attach a pen, everything is kept together so neatly that you can open it anywhere and quickly close it to take it with you on the go. The note pads are:

  • The art of juggling – This is probably my favorite of the note pads. It has grids for personal, household, financial, family, and work to do lists. I LOVE having it all right there to see all together.
  • Today’s most important tasks – A self-explained note pad to write down your list and tear it away.
  • My dreams & doodles – I use this note pad to write down all the things that I want to sew, make, and do.
  • What’s cookin’ baby? – A month at a glance menu plan. LOVE
  • Gotta pick it up – A shopping list that is large enough to contain a good sized amount of groceries.

I can’t say enough great things about this product. I went from being scattered and unable to keep everything contained to being able to control the chaos in my life more than I have in a long time. I never leave the house without it, always finding myself pulling it out to write down notes, reminders, and memories.

One other fun little thing about this system: The quotes and scriptures throughout The Womans {week by week} Planner. There have been a few times I was feeling down or stressed and the little reading on the page I was on gave me encouragement and a little pick me up.

I highly recommend this planner and organizer to anyone who has a tough time keeping it all together, especially new moms. Oh how I wish I had this when my babies were new to track feedings and diaper changes. It would have made life a whole lot easier, let me tell you!

Click here to visit Chaos…Simplified and order a planner of your own! The Womans {week by week} planner is regularly $19.95 and The Womans {life} planner is regularly $59.95. Both are on sale right now though! And for readers of Raising Sticky Hands To Heaven, Chaos…Simplified is offering FREE SHIPPING using the promo code: “freeship”!

Thank you, Chaos…Simplified! Thank you thank you thank you THANK YOU! Not only for allowing me to do this review, but also for literally simplifying the chaos in my life. I cannot stress how much this planner has positively changed my life.

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ByAngie

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.

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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

 

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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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ByAngie

Review: TouchMath Kindergarten Curriculum

Until recently, we had not used a formal curriculum for math. Sure, we did math, but it was a compilation of basic skills, free worksheets that I had found online, games, flash cards, manipulatives, art, and workbooks that I had put together. So, when we were offered the chance to review the Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum from  TouchMath  right at the beginning of our Kindergarten year, (We began in January.) I was relieved. Not that I don’t know Kindergarten math, mind you, (Though some might say I don’t. 😉 ) I just felt it was time to begin using some “real” curricula and to be honest, when it came to math, I wasn’t sure where to turn.

I usually get excited for curriculum shopping. However, I wasn’t really liking what I saw in the math department. Up pops this opportunity, and what do you know? It was an answer to prayer.

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TouchMath uses a very tactile approach by utilizing TouchPoints. With this approach, every number has points. Each point has a value of one and is assigned a place on the number. When counting the numbers, the child touches the points and says them aloud, adding up the value of the numeral. The “year” is broken up into units (A-D) and then into 6 modules. The manual is probably the best one I’ve ever seen, actually walking you through each and every step of the worksheets/activities by telling you when to let the child work alone and when to guide them. Forms for monitoring progress or to take notes on what to go back and review more of are also included, along with detailed explanations of what your child should be doing and is expected to know before beginning the module and after.

If you have a child that needs to learn kinesthetically or has sensory issues, this might be something you really want to look into. Tommy has to literally exhaust every one of his 5 senses some days when it comes to math. (Okay, maybe not ALL of them. If I could have him eat the numbers to taste them, and it would work, I would. He’s just a typical 5 year old boy who doesn’t understand the point of all this number talk. On good days, he catches on almost too fast! Oh, I’m rambling… Sorry…)

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For our review, we were also given TouchShapes, TouchMath Tutor Software, and 3-D Numerals. These items are NOT required, and the curriculum standing alone is still good. However, I found that by combining all of these resources together with the core curriculum, that is based on common core state standards, Tommy was able to touch, say, and hear what he was learning.  Sometimes just moving a TouchShape to a different place on the worksheet or hearing the bear on the software explain a concept to him, he was able to grasp what he was trying to understand. The 3-D Numerals I would highly recommend should you choose to go with this program, though, as they are really what helped Tommy “get it” more than anything. (And while we were not given TouchMath to review for our preschool aged son, Johnny Ben, who is Autistic, I want to mention something: After watching his older brother do his lessons, Johnny Ben walked over to the table in the homeschool room and began touching the TouchPoints on the 3-D Numerals and saying the numbers. (He is mostly non-verbal.) Color me happy!)

The lessons are to last about 2 1/2 times your child’s age, so since Tommy just turned 5 this last week we focused on 10-12 minutes of lessons 4-5 days a week. Some days this meant we only got through 1 (a few times less) worksheet or activity. Other days it meant we did 3 worksheets or he flew through the lessons on the software. In the beginning this worried me, but after a few weeks I realized it was working out for him when he was counting to 100 at a family dinner with my parents and showing such confidence about it. At this point in time he is learning subtraction and is just going with the flow.

A quick example of Tommy using the software.

A quick example of Tommy using the software.

The TouchMath Kindergarten Homeschool curriculum is available as a download from TouchMath.com. Now, this is another really cool thing I like about this company. You don’t have to buy the entire year at once. If you want to, you can, but if you would like to you can buy only one unit at a time. The cost of each unit individually is $59.95, and if you purchase all 4 units at once the price is $199.95. The optional add-ons that our family was given to review were:

  • TouchShapes – $30.00
  • 3-D Numerals (That also comes with a fun CD-Rom loaded with worksheets. Tommy LOVED these worksheets!) – $79.00
  • TouchMath Tutor Kindergarten Software – $99.00
  • (There are also other items available for sale that supplement this curriculum on their website. These are just the items we were given to review.)

All in all, I give TouchMath a good rating. Teaching math to some kids is just flat out hard. Especially a child who could care less about it. It got my son’s attention and has him learning things he needs to know. A+!

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Want to know more? Feel free to click here to see other reviews, including those of families who were given different grade levels. Thanks for stopping by!

 

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ByAngie

Review: ARTistic Pursuits

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For a little over a month our family has been using ARTisitic Pursuits for our art curriculum. We were given Early Elementary K-3 Book One: Introduction to the Visual Arts to review for all of you fabulous readers out there. Today, I’m going to tell you all about it!

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TommyARTisticPursuitsThe intention of this lesson book is to teach children in a simple way the visual arts. Divided into 3 themed sections, What Artists Do, What Artists See, & Where We Find Art, children are introduced into actual classic art work and learn to pay attention to the details of how they were created and how to imagine what the artist may have been thinking or wanting you to see. In the process of learning these perspectives, they are taught how to do the same by using fun activities to create art of their own.

Looking over the curriculum initially, I was concerned. I wasn’t quite sure how Tommy would receive it. I mean, classic art and how to create it for Kindergarten? Cool, yes. But realistic?

However, once again, I ate crow. He took right to it!  The format of the lessons, meant to be done weekly, is to read together a little about some classic art, and then to create your own. While the reading segment is thorough, it’s not so much that it goes over my Kindergartener’s head. He was able to understand everything and learn exactly what the lesson was trying to convey. He has even asked to learn more about some of the artists and has done more lessons than expected because he wants to work on it during play time, not just during “school time.” Some lessons he has asked to repeat even. What mother would argue with that? I love that it has sparked his interest in art, and it’s really neat to see how he  uses his imagination to complete his work.

If you're following me on Instagram, then you understand this is a painting of my daughter Molly dressed as Yoda and Tommy dressed as Darth Vader. Funny kid.

If you’re following me on Instagram, then you understand this is a painting of my daughter Molly dressed as Yoda and Tommy dressed as Darth Vader. Funny kid.

So far he has used watercolor crayons, ebony pencils, and soft pastels. Because the manual has me teach him how to use the materials properly through word and picture, he has a good grasp on how to be an artist himself. The result is gained confidence in addition to knowing how to create art of his own. By reading about a piece of classic artwork before his own project, he is also learning about the artists, eras, and techniques used by different artists at the time the pieces were created.

In a nutshell, I am pleasantly surprised and adore this curriculum! My son has learned so much and has a desire to do art in a different way than he ever has before. His ambition to hear more about the artist and ask me questions to the point of my having to go to google to look up more information on them is really exciting. I love that he has been inspired.

The ARTistic Pursuits, Early Elementary K-3 Book One Introduction to the Visual Arts book is $47.95. It is a spiral bound book printed in, what in what my opinion is, high quality ink on heavier than normal paper. The pictures are very clear and detailed. You could never notice the details in the art that you see on page if were you just looking at them on the computer.

Here Tommy is looking out into our backyard for specific items on a list to draw with ebony pencil.

Here Tommy is looking out into our backyard for specific items on a list to draw with ebony pencil.

The list of needed materials isn’t too long. Each item is definitely needed for each lesson so you can’t really skimp in this area. All of the materials can be bought either in packages on the ARTistic Pursuits website or piece by piece as needed depending on your budget. Take note, some items will be difficult to find at your local craft stores. We were surprised when we could not find watercolor crayons at ANY of the craft stores in Southern California. Thankfully, we were able to find them on Amazon and had them in no time. Pay attention to the quality of items if you decide not to buy name brand. For a few of the items we were able to buy an off-brand, but for some I chose to use the more expensive choice for the sake of the lessons being done correctly. But once again, that’s just my opinion. 😉

Other books available in this series are:

 

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Would you like to see how this curriculum, along with other books in the series, worked for others? Click here or on the banner below to find more reviews by other members on the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

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ByAngie

Review: Handwriting Without Tears Wet-Dry-Try App For Android

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Teaching my son to write has to have been the most challenging part of homeschooling thus far. In the beginning he had no interest, and later he lacked patience. Even using his finger to trace over letters on paper or in sand was a battle. I’m happy to say, this is no longer the case! All thanks to Handwriting Without Tears and their Wet-Dry-Try app for Android!

Handwriting Without Tears is a well known and respected company that offers a handwriting curriculum for grades PreK up to 5th grade for both homeschool and educators in brick and mortar schools. The format is full of fun, music, games, and many multi-sensory approaches to help make writing interesting and fun. One of the activities they have children do is use a slate chalkboard to write a letter or number, trace over it with a wet cloth, and then dry it with their finger. Recently they released an app that mimics these actions on a tablet (7 inches or larger) to learn how to write Capital letters and Numbers, and we were given the opportunity to review it. I really didn’t expect much of it, as I’ve tried different apps on our Android tablet to try and get Tommy’s attention in this area and they never worked. I must admit though, I was wrong. I eat crow. This app really does help!

HWOT Wet/Dry App Title page

When you first open the app, you’ll need to set up a profile for your child. This takes but a moment and is really simple. You may have up to 4 profiles. So if you have more than one child you’d like to be working on this app, then you will have no problem. There is the option to turn off the background music, voice instruction, and sound effects if those are the types of things that you’d like to not have on. (I personally kept the music on so that if I was doing something else I could hear if Tommy quit working.) You can set it to be challenging or easier and to be “unlocked” or to lock at certain levels. We had our’s set for Easier and Unlocked.

HWOT Wet/Dry Pick and Practice

Now that you’re all set up, you have the option to choose from “Pick and Practice” (seen above) or “HWT’s Winning Order” (seen below) to begin. I started Tommy out with HWT’s Winning Order since he’d really had trouble learning to write.  The lessons give little nicknames to moves and lines, and make use of a happy face to show you where the top left of the tablet should be. Before your child starts, the instructor writes the letter in chalk for your child. Then your child will “wet” the letter with a sponge. Once your child has completed the sponge task, they are asked to “dry” the letter. After the letter is dry, they are given the chance to write it themselves with chalk. If they make a mistake, it does have them start over on the exact task they are on, and after a few failed attempts will show them how to do it again. Once they have completed an entire “round”, they are given positive recognition and receive a star. Tommy loves seeing how many stars he can get.

HWOT Wet/Dry App Winning Order

Well, let me tell you honestly. He was quite frustrated at times in the beginning. It’s a tablet, so sometimes if your touch isn’t just write, it will say your finger is not on the board when it is, or will get “caught” if your sensitivity isn’t set right in the settings. But once he got the hang of how to handle it and I had all the kinks with the settings on the tablet figured out, he took off. I had him use it every school day and sometimes on weekends for about 15-20 minutes at a time.  He would, as most any kid would, occasionally complain about having to sit and write numbers instead of doing some fun learning game. But other days he saw it as a game and tried to see how many stars he could get on each letter or number. After the first few days, I gave him free reign to decide what letters or numbers he was going to practice on… and this is where it gets amazing.

"Spiderman" using the app

“Spiderman” using the app

One day, during math, I put a worksheet in front of Tommy. He had been working on the tablet for about a week and a half at the time, and like I said, I really didn’t expect to much out of it. I didn’t expect him to try to trace the numbers on the math sheet. In fact, I was only going to have him count them out and color in the apples. Lo and behold, he asks “Mom, can I write the numbers?” to which I replied “Go for it” in shock. I’m not kidding, he picked up his pencil and traced every single number on that page with no issue… and CORRECTLY! Okay, yeah, there were some mistakes. But to have him do it at all, let alone without help and few errors, I was ecstatic. I exclaimed, “Thomas! That’s awesome! I’m so proud of you!” and quickly gave him a sticker and hung the sheet on the bulletin board. The next thing he said was very Smart Alec of him, but I probably deserved it: “I’ve been using my Wet-Dry-Try tablet, Mom. I know how to write now.” He might as well added a big “Duh!” at the end of his sentence, but the boy knows better. 😉

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Now, his writing is not perfect. Nor does he not need further instruction to help him learn to print correctly. However, he has overcome so much stress and anxiety by using the Wet-Dry-Try app. Writing comes much naturally to him now. I am more than pleased! We’ve also discovered by letting him have free reign on this app that he is ambidextrous. Who knew? (It’s really not too shocking, as I am, but still, I didn’t know before… So throw me a bone here. 😉 )

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The cost of the app is $4.99, about the same you would spend on a slate board and chalk.

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Would you like to see more reviews by others on not only the Wet-Dry-Try app, but also other Handwriting Without Tears products? Click here to find more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

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ByAngie

Review: Flowering Baby

Do you have a young baby, toddler, or preschooler and want to begin working with them? Not necessarily “school”, per se, but educational activities that help them thrive and learn? Maybe you have older children, and the little ones want to have something of their own to do. Problem is, coming up with the curricula that would be flexible and beneficial with little stress would be a silly dream…  Well, maybe before, like when I started homeschooling a few years ago, but not now!

Let me introduce you to Flowering Baby, LLC, a curriculum company founded by a Mother and Daughter for ages birth through five that has taken the time to do the research, make the lessons fun, and package it all up so that all you have to do is run to the library and pick up a few books… Because most likely you have everything else on hand! Everything is in PDF format on a CD that will work on your computer regardless of it’s a Windows or Mac, and it is SO easy to follow. No having to read and re-read the instructions here!
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The sections are divided up first by years, and then by month. For Birth through Three, it is by age. For Three through Five, it is by calendar month. Also, years Three to Four and Four to Five have a monthly schedule that is accompanied by a list of themes from which you pick 2 for each month. See how little time you have to put into it? It’s already all put together for you!

To give you an idea of how the years are split up, I’ve listed their names with a link attached. If you click on the link and scroll down to the bottom of each page, you’ll be able to see a sample of that year. I’ve also included their prices below:

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For our family, we used year One to Two starting in the 19th month with my youngest child, Molly. I had intended to include my second to youngest, Johnny Ben, in this set also. He is 3 1/2 with developmental delays that we are in the process of having assessed and evaluated. While he participated to some degree, he really didn’t follow along, so I will only share how it worked with Molly.

Starting out was way too easy. The author lists a set of books (she states you may be flexible and choose a similar book if you don’t own the title or are unable to find it at a library), music, and supplies you will need for the month. For the first month we needed 3 books, a total of 6 supplies, and music by Tchaikovsky. The only supply I had to buy was some dry beans. I was able to use Pandora for the music, and we just so happened to already have the books. (I’m a book hoarder… Shhh…)

"Reading" one of our books that we read with the curriculum. Ignore the fact that the book is upside down, please.

“Reading” one of our books that we read with the curriculum. Ignore the fact that the book is upside down, please.

I never had a set time to complete our lessons. If a moment was available while doing school with my Kindergartener, Tommy, and Molly was interrupting then I would have Tommy work on something he could do solo and do Molly’s “school” with her. A few times we waited until after dinner to help wind down the night. A few mornings we did it right off the bat, and the rest of the times we did it right after lunch or nap. Naturally, there were some days that it just didn’t happen, but that’s okay. The curriculum is set up so that it is not done every single day of the month. So if we missed a day, we just picked up where we left off the day before. It is EXTREMELY flexible.

Most days the lessons were short and sweet, being completed in about 30 minutes. Reading a book or stating a poem/nursery rhyme and looking at pictures while listening to music. There were lessons that had us focus on speech by talking and saying words to each other. On some days, motor skills like walking on a curb or throwing a ball were covered. There were nights we all danced together. Every day is different from the day before or the day after, but kept simple and right on their level. I think Molly’s favorite was the day she was Mommy and I was the baby. Blame her? 😉 Tommy also enjoyed it, and invited himself to join in on just about every single lesson. Molly loved that, it made her feel like a “big kid.”

And yes, of course, there are a few messy lessons… I feel like I should include that note… Because if you’re like me, you hate messes and messy lessons. But you know what? I couldn’t resist. The activity sounded fun. And being that I was raised in one of those “no play-doh, no markers, and definitely no paint” homes, I decided I should give my children something I didn’t have. (Pardon the messy video editing, this was the first time I’ve ever done it!)

All in all, I have to say I LOVE Flowering Baby. Being so busy it takes out so much guess-work and makes teaching easy and learning fun. Besides, while I’m a homeschooling mom, I am in no way an expert on child development. Having a curriculum that was designed with whole child development in mind put me at ease to not feel at all like I was forgetting something that she needed. If you are looking for something for your littles, I would recommend Flowering Baby. (Sticky) hands down.

Interested in purchasing a copy of your own? Flowering Baby is offering a 10% discount to our readers when they use the  code “Blog10” when ordering.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Would you like to see what others thought of Flowering Baby? Maybe see some reviews of the other years available? Head on over to SchoolhouseReviewCrew.com to find more!

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ByAngie

Review: Apologia Exploring Creation With Zoology 1: Flying Creatures Of The Fifth Day

Since we made the decision to homeschool a few years ago, the name “Apologia” has been everywhere. I still remember the first time I went to Apologia Educational Ministries website and the excitement that came over me. Biblical creation based science and perspective, weaved with scripture and hands on learning! My husband and I decided then that when our children were old enough, this would be the company we would turn to.

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Recently, we were blessed with the opportunity to review Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of The Fifth Day textbook & Junior Notebooking Journal from the Young Explorers series that Apologia offers for grades K-6. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I broke into laughter, screamed, jumped up and down, and did a little dance when I found out this was on it’s way to our home. Did I mention we had company over for dinner? Yeah. But I’m not only a nerdy book loving homeschool mom, I’m also a science geek. So it was like Christmas came early for this girl, and I felt the need to rejoice.

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Flying Creatures of The Fifth Day covers exactly just that. ALL flying creatures, not just birds. Bats, flying reptiles, Beetles, and insects are included here as well. Using a Charlotte Mason-esque approach of learning, the study covers 14 chapters beginning with a lesson in what Zoology is and all about classification. From there it dives right into birds and flows through the rest of the topics. Each chapter has key points such as Try This!, Mid-Lesson Break, Mid-Lesson Experiment, What Do You Remember?, and ends with a project. The pages are easy to read and have stunning photos. Also included in the textbook is a link and password for more information on the lessons available on Apologia’s website. (This is an awesome feature that I suggest no one who owns these books bypass.)

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The Junior Notebooking Journal (suggested for early elementary) is really a nice addition to have, but not necessary to complete the lessons in the textbook. For me, I’d rather have the Junior Notebooking Journal as it is well organized, takes a lot of guesswork out of things, and you’re not printing out a lot of pages for each lesson. For example, listed in Junior Notebooking Journal is a suggested lesson plan that would have you cover each lesson (chapter) over the course of 2 weeks by working on it 2 days each week. It also contains coloring sheets, copy work (both manuscript & cursive), scientific speculation sheets, mini lapbooks and other worksheets. All pages are in black and white and are easily understood as to how to use them.

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My husband and I fell in love with this curriculum. It relates everything the way we would teach it ourselves if we had the time to sit down and write it all out. And being that the style of teaching was mostly narration was a big plus since that’s what we love. However, we quickly realized that a big chunk of each lesson was a bit too much for a Kindergartener to grasp. Understanding that the Young Explorers series is meant to be for grades Kindergarten through 6th, we expected some things to be a bit difficult. Yet we found early on that it was going to be pretty challenging to really do each lesson without sometimes teaching half of it. None the less, we persevered and continued on. Tommy would color while I read the reading for the day. Some days it flew (no pun intended) right over his head, and others did not. Weeks later he’s still talking to anyone who will listen, including strangers, about lift and drag, extinction, habitats, etc. so he definitely absorbed quite a bit. For the worksheets he would dictate to me what to write if it was too much for his little hands to do. We quickly adapted 3-4 days a week instead of 2 and found it to be much easier. By taking more time to read ahead the night before, discussing the best ways to explain the lesson to his eager little mind, we were also given an advantage. Experiments? Well those were easy. He LOVED the experiments…

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We plan to continue on and finish the books with our little improvisations. We may take it even a bit more slower, though, and do some other science activities in between lessons. If in a few weeks it gets to be too much, then we’ll set it to the side and come back to it later. Right now it is working, though. And when he is older, if it makes sense at the time, we’ll come back and do it all again with the Notebooking Journal (not Junior, for older children. Not reviewed in this post.) and let him find the things he missed before.

If Biblical Creation based science is important to you and your kids love hands on learning, then I would say this is definitely recommended as something you should try. But if your early elementary child is not yet writing very well and unable to listen for more than a few minutes at a time, I would wait a year or so before beginning.

The price of each item is as follows. By clicking on the links, you will find full product descriptions, sample pages, and table of contents.

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 textbook: $39

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 Junior Notebooking Journal: $24

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 Notebooking Journal (Not reviewed in this post!): $24

Other items you will need are basic items such as paper, crayons, & pencils. But keep in mind, you will also need to buy various products for the science experiments. So, if you are budgeting your costs before you purchase, I would suggest to look up the lab list linked on the textbook webpage.

I truly hope that you have found this review helpful. If you’d like to read how other homeschoolers felt about these books and others in the Young Explorers series, then click on the banner below.

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Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.