Touching Children’s Books (Kayla Jarmon review)

Last week, I reviewed a set of children’s books with a strong digital tie-in (the week before, too, now I think of it). Today, the books I want to tell you about are from author Kayla Jarmon and are “just” books – though my copies are electronic (that’s the only digital tie-in these books have). As a wife, mother, screenwriter, and director, telling stories is near and dear to her heart. As of the date of this posting, she has three books on her website (A Boy and His Dog, Dying is Part of this World, and Don’t Forget Me), and I’ll talk a bit about each of them. 

Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog by Kayla Jarmon

A Boy and His Dog

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A991A3E0-00C3-4F00-BA73-7203A20FDB76This is a cute story with whimsical illustrations telling the story of the relationship a boy has with his best friend, his dog. It opens with them waking up together, giving each other a big “good morning” hug. Then they go about their day together, doing things such as eating breakfast, playing tug-of-war, and chasing squirrels. For each activity, the book shows how the boy goes about things and how the dog does it. For example, when they climb a tree, the boy helps the dog up, but the dog gets scared when his third paw leaves the ground, so he ends up just watching the boy climb. At the end of the day, once they’ve bathed to get clean from their busy day, the two go to bed together. The final pages of the story repeat the first pages – with the friends waking and hugging. I thought that was a really sweet way to wrap up the story.

I am definitely not a dog person (I truly can’t stand the creatures – my apologies for probably disagreeing with you on this), and I still enjoyed the book. It really shows a sweet relationship between “man and beast.” I also appreciated that the activities the pair do together were all fun, outdoors things – not a screen or digital device in sight.

The paperback edition is available for $14.99 on Amazon.

Don’t Forget Me

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This one was my favorite of the three. As book 1 of The Discussion Series, it’s designed to read to your kids and get them thinking about how life works and how God designed it all.

595205CC-B0AF-4891-A3A8-EED38801A37EThe book tells the story of an unborn baby and his conversations with God. It opens with conception, and how the new embryo is so comfortable in his new environment. At this, God speaks up and reminds the baby that He is there too, at which the baby is even more comforted and glad to have Him around. The conversations continue as the baby grows, and he and God talk about things like how much the baby likes the sounds of his mother (and later, father), what it feels like to grow, and what will happen when Baby leaves this room (Mom’s womb) for a new one (his nursery). Frequently along the way, God reminds Baby that He is always there. 

About two-thirds of the way through the book, the conversation shifts a bit as the baby is getting ready to be born. God reminds him that through this time of pain (because really, contractions can’t be comfortable for babies either), He is still there. And that the pain will be worth it in the end because Baby will get to meet his parents at long last. At the last moment before birth, God reminds Baby, “Don’t Forget me.” The final pages of the book are the parents telling the baby (while still in the hospital) about how God brought him to them and would he like to hear about God. The baby thinks, “Yes, please. I don’t want to forget Him.”

I’ve read this book a few different times during the course of the review period (including right now to refresh my memory as I write), and it makes me tear up a bit every single time. It is such a beautiful story, and I absolutely adore the theme of always remembering God and where we came from.

The paperback edition is available for $14.99 on Amazon.

Dying is Part of This World

8CCC8756-0837-4051-A9F4-9B8E95095107This is book 2 of Discussion Series, and a really good follow up to Don’t Forget Me. While the first book focuses on the beginning of life (conception and birth), this one is more about the end. It is written as a conversation between a child and her mother, with no other narration at all. After a trip to visit her grandfather, the child comes back sad, thinking about her mother dying after having watched the news report. In each chapter (the other two are picture books, but this one, despite being a similar page count, has chapters), the mother explains how death is simply a part of life. She’s very sympathetic to her daughter’s distress over the subject, but she still never backs down from the idea that it will happen, eventually. 

Each chapter is a different portion of their conversation, and it ranges from “we’ll see each other again in Heaven” to “if you (the child) die first, you’ll be too happy with Jesus to be sad about missing me” to how we get our parents (God gives them to us) and why we have to die (sin). At the end of the chapters are discussion questions to help spark a conversation between you and your child.

Overall, it’s a very well done book, and not one that I would feel even a moment’s hesitation in sharing with my children, especially if they’re dealing with a situation like this in real life (the death of a grandparent, for example). My kids aren’t, but I will keep this book in my “hip pocket” for such an occasion.

The paperback edition is available for $11.99 on Amazon.

I haven’t actually read any of these books to my kids yet, because I only have access to (password protected) online versions, and since we don’t have internet access at the house it’s just not really possible for me to read the to the boys at this time. Even just reading them to myself, though, I can absolutely recognize their good qualities and how each and every one of them would be a fantastic addition to any family’s library.

Blessings,

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Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews}
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Books that are More than “Just” Books (Weigl Publishers review)

Weigl Publishers has lots of really neat books, and I’ve been able to review three of them over the past few weeks. I’ve been reading two of them to my little kids (I have digital copies, so that’s done by having downloaded the books to my iPad and saving them to the iBooks app) and exploring the third one on my own. The books are:

  • Glaciers from the series “Earth’s Water” published under the imprint Lightbox and intended for a grades 3-6 interest range.
  • A Lion’s World, belonging to the“EyeDiscover” series, intended for a K-2 interest range.
  • There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant, a fiction title intended for a K-2 interest range.

You can probably tell from the suggested age ranges listed which two we’ve read together: Lion’s World and Cowpoke. Let’s start by talking about Lion’s World.

lion coverA Lion’s World is a simple book with lots of beautiful photographs of the large cats. Each page features a single fact about lions; this way it’s not too much for young children to digest (since it’s a nonfiction title). The facts listed are super easy to read and understand. Small Fry, my kindergartner, had no problem understanding what was going on in the book. Because it’s such an easy book, it would also be good for early readers to practice on their own. The words are big and most of them are easy, though very young children might need some help with a few of the longer ones or those with unusual letter groupings/sounds (“powerful” and “groups,” for example). Generally speaking, though, I think a 2nd grader (the upper range of the suggested age for this book) wouldn’t have any trouble reading it on his/her own.

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cowpoke coverMy little boys have absolutely adored listening to me read There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant to them. This story is based on the old nursery rhyme (song?) “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” It starts with the cowboy swallowing a fire ant, which obviously stings his insides and makes him very uncomfortable. He continues to swallow more and more desert creatures, trying to get rid of that pesky ant.

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This one is great for little kids because of the repetitive factor that is so popular with that group (with each additional animal swallowed, the list back to the ant is repeated). They love things that repeat so they can learn the rhythm and begin to join in on the story very easily. This was absolutely the case with Small Fry, who loved finishing up the stanza for me – he’d learned it before we even finished the very first read through. Unlike the old tale on which the story is based, the ending of this story has a fun little twist which really made my son cackle – the cowboy ends up swallowing himself because “If I want something done right, I have to do it myself!”

glaciers coverGlaciers is much more in-depth, and we honestly haven’t spent much time with it. The age range is higher, and I definitely agree with that recommendation. It would be really overwhelming for a young child because the amount of information presented is way beyond what a little kid could handle. For an older child, though, it might provide a good reference tool for a report or unit study on glaciers. The one thing I caution is that it refers to “glacier movements over time (millions of years).” If you believe in a young Earth – as my family does – this might not be the right book for you. However, if you don’t believe that, or are comfortable explaining the different opinions of Earth’s age to your children and being discerning, then it could work.

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How these books are “more than books”

I mentioned in the title of this post that these books aren’t just books, and yet I’ve described them as just that – (electronic) books. So what’s the “more”? Well, each book has a code at the beginning, and you can plug that code into a website for access to much more content. Let’s take a quick look at what’s available.

Lion and Cowpoke

Because these books are for younger children, the main feature is an audio reading of the book. In fact, this is the only thing in Cowpoke. Lion offers a bit more description at the beginning (“in this book, you will learn about…”) before diving into the reading.

Glaciers

Because this is a book for older students, there’s a lot more to the website than just a reading of the book. There are tons of audio, video, and activity options to do. There’s even a quiz for kids to do after having read the book to check for comprehension.

We didn’t use the websites really at all, except in my research for this review. Because we don’t have internet access at our house, it has been nearly impossible to get the kids to a place where they can use it, so we’ve been using the books on their own – and it’s fine, especially with the little kid books. But if you do have regular, easy internet access (and I know you probably do, since you’re here reading this), then these books and supplemental websites would offer a really neat option for your kids.

Blessings,

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Multimedia Digital Books {Weigl Publishers Reviews}
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Bringing the Bible to Life with Augmented Reality (Planet 316 review)

Bible storybooks are a great way to introduce the scriptures to young children. As our society becomes more and more technologically inclined, apps and programs come out that can be a distraction, though. Planet 316 and WorthyKids/Ideals have combined to create the Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Story Bible App, a physical Bible storybook that works simultaneously with an app to create a super fun, “augmented reality” experience.

story bible

The way it works is this: purchase your book (the cover price is $18.99, but when you click the “buy” link, it takes you to Amazon where you can get it for $14.96 as of the date of this post) and download the free app, which is available for both Android and Apple products. I downloaded it to both my iPhone and iPad, just so we’d have options in case one or the other wasn’t available (dead battery, for example). The first time you use the app, you’ll need to grant it access to your camera, otherwise it can’t “read” the images on the book’s pages. Once you have both, open the book and aim your device’s camera shutter at the picture. On the screen, you’ll see the Bible come to life! Parts of the pictures appear to literally jump off the page, music plays, and most of the time the characters even talk. It’s really neat.

E with bible storybookI used this with both Small Fry (5) and Dragonfly (2). It was our go-to bedtime story for a while. I would read the pages to them, then we’d do the augmented reality portion for that page. The kids would take turns tapping the characters (which is how you make them say their lines). Several of the stories run just one spread, but many of them take more than one also. In a single night, it was easy to read 4 or 5 stories without it seeming like too much for a bedtime story (not that there’s ever such a thing as too much scripture, but you know what I mean).

My kids have really loved this product. It combines two of their very favorite things: being read to and getting to use the iPad. I really enjoyed it too. The augmented reality technology is really fascinating, and it really helps to bring the stories to life for young children. Sometimes the characters’ words are quite comedic (for example, on the day he was created, Adam says, “It’s my birthday!”), but sometimes they’re somber enough for the mood of the story they’re in. Adding that little bit of life to the Bible really helps kids to be able to understand that those things actually happened, too. Even though they only speak a sentence or two at a time, something about having a voice besides Mom saying the words gives kids a sense of reality. One of the best features is that once you have the app downloaded, you don’t need internet in order to run it. All the stories are contained in the app itself, so if you find yourself unable to connect to internet for one reason or another, your Planet 316 Story Bible App will still work.

bible storybook coverAs much as we loved it, there are two things I would change. First of all, it was a bit difficult to get the iPad far enough away to be able to see the entire image (on the screen) and not be standing over the book. This is very likely a camera issue, not an app issue though. I just would love to have the option to zoom out. The second thing is that it can be quite difficult to run both the book and the app-running-device with just one person. It was okay for me (just okay, not great) because I was reading to Small Fry, who is old enough to help. But the book, being a brand-new hardcover book, didn’t like to stay open unless you (someone) were holding it. Having to do that while also aiming the camera at the book proved to be difficult most of the time. The Bible being available in a spiral-bound edition would eliminate this problem completely, and that would be a very good thing, I think.

Despite those two issues, they’re not enough to keep us from using this product. The kids love it, I think it’s really cool, and they’re getting a reasonable Biblical foundation from the stories. That’s what matters most of all.

Blessings,

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Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App {Planet 316 Reviews}
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Printable Worksheets and Tests for All Grades (HelpTeaching.com review)

Do you have a student who thrives on worksheets? Do you need a resource from which to get tests for your child? Or would you prefer to write your own tests but not have to deal with the formatting in a word processor? Then HelpTeaching.com just might be the right fit for you. For the past few weeks, I’ve been able to review their Help Teaching Pro to do some of the things I just mentioned.

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My older kids have plenty of schoolwork to keep them busy, but for Small Fry (Kindergarten), I felt like we needed something more, which is why I asked to review this product. After looking over the website, I determined that there would be lots of options there for his age, and I was right. It’s been a true blessing to have these premade worksheets the past few weeks so all I have to do is print them out and teach him the concepts. HelpTeaching.com makes it so easy!

I initially expected that my son would be fairly slow going with the worksheets (since this would be his first experience with them), so in my first perusal of the website after getting my access code, I decided to print off 5 language arts worksheets and 5 math worksheets, figuring that would get us through one week of classes. Boy was I wrong! My 5-year-old loved these, and he burned through all of them on the very first day. So that night, I hopped back on the site and found more to get ready for him.

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This screenshot shows a sample section of the website so you can see how the worksheets are organized. Those with the lock icon are available only with a paid membership; those without can be accessed with just the free account from HelpTeaching.com.

The site is very organized, which I appreciated. I was easily able to narrow my search down to exactly what I wanted because all of the worksheets are arranged by both subject and grade. By choosing the “Kindergarten” age level, I was taken to a page with hundreds of choices in all of the major subjects. Because we already had a science curriculum we were working on together, I didn’t pay much attention to those, but I looked at nearly all of the options for both language arts (including things like word building, reading comprehension, and sight words plus many more) and math, and over the past few weeks Small Fry has done many of them.

The worksheets are listed by title, and when you click on the name of the worksheet it opens up a visual of the worksheet right in your web browser. From there, you have options to

  • Have your student complete the worksheet online
  • Print the worksheet straight from the website
  • Download a PDF of the worksheet to print from your PDF reader

worksheet exampleI opted for the last choice, just because I was able to control the print quality (black and white, ink saver mode, double sided when appropriate) better. Once the worksheets were printed, I put them all in a folder for safe keeping. I stored blank worksheets on the left and completed worksheets on the right. It hasn’t been a perfect solution (sometimes the folder gets misplaced, the completed worksheets don’t get put in at the end, and the math and English worksheets are all mixed together), but it’s generally been fine.

It seems that I’ve forgotten to take pictures of the worksheets that Small Fry has completed; I assure you, he’s done many of them. Please forgive this oversight and use the sample image at the left to see what kinds of worksheets are available.

So that’s how I used the site. But what about those tests I mentioned in my opening paragraph? Well, that’s easy too! Just click on the Test Maker button at the top of the page, and you’re taken to a page with lots of options. You can fill it in completely with your own questions, you can populate the test with questions exclusively from the HelpTeaching.com library, or you can mix and match. How cool is that?!

Overall, I’ve been very happy with our Help Teaching Pro membership. I will definitely continue to pull worksheets for my boy for the foreseeable future; it’s too good a resource to not use.

Blessings,

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Help Teaching Pro. {HelpTeaching.com Reviews}
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Learning About Ourselves and God’s Creation (Apologia review)

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Munchkin, Small Fry, and I have had so much fun the past few weeks working on our new anatomy course – Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology from Apologia. We were blessed to receive the full set, including the text book, the notebooking journal, the junior notebooking journal, and the mp3 CD. I love that we have both of the notebooking journals. The regular journal is perfect for Munchkin (a young 6th grader) and the junior version is just right for Small Fry (a typical kindergartner). Not having any kids in between those two means they can’t often do any lessons together, but this one was one that they both are enjoying immensely.

As many in the homeschool community know, Apologia is one of the biggest providers of faith-based science curricula (besides their other offerings). They have a multitude of options, and their “Exploring Creation” series (of which Anatomy and Physiology is a part of) is geared toward the K-6 crowd. Each title in the series goes in-depth through an aspect of elementary-level science with honoring God and his creation at the forefront of each topic.

How We Used It

In each notebooing journal, there is a suggested schedule to follow, which has you “doing” science twice a week. Being a bit unsure as to how else to run things, I started with this as my baseline.

jr notebookEach day starts with some reading. Older children could easily do this on their own. Because I was also working with a kindergartner (who doesn’t yet read on his own), I decided to read the text aloud to both of my boys. We’d gather up the three books at the dinner table and dive in. The reading is broken up into manageable chunks, which is good for both the reader and the student(s). After reading roughly 2-3 pages, there’s a place (printed in blue in the textbook so it’s hard to miss) to stop and have your student narrate back to you what they just learned. I really liked this aspect because it helped me to make sure that the boys were understanding what was being taught. They both did a very good job of being able to remember the things in each section, which really pleased me. They may not have remembered the exact names of things, but they remembered enough of the basics to satisfy me that they were, in fact, learning the material.

In case you’re not really digging the idea of reading an entire textbook aloud, or you student isn’t much of a reader, you can get the companion mp3 CD. The CD opens with an introduction explaining what you’re about to hear and how you should use the audiobook – namely, with the textbook in front of you because while the text itself is presented in the audiobook, things like the experiments are not. Where those show up in the text, the narrator (who happens to be text author Jeannie Fulbright) just tells you that a “Try This” exists there and that you should stop the CD to look over (and hopefully do) the experiment. This intro is given by a man with a pleasant speaking voice.

notebook sampleAfter the introduction is over, the text begins right at the opening page. The author reads her book with great diction and expression. It’s obvious from her reading that she’s very passionate about her work, and that’s a good thing. The thing that surprised me the most about her reading was how young her voice sounded (but that’s not a bad thing!).

The CD is split up into tracks based on the lesson number and topic heading within that lesson (if I was reading the mp3 reader on the computer correctly). That makes it quite easy to navigate right to where you need to go on lessons after the first one, which is a nice feature considering each lesson is broken up into four days of work.

One thing to know about the CD is that it’s not a regular CD; it’s an mp3 CD, which means it won’t play in a traditional CD or DVD player. You need something with mp3 capabilities (in our case, Will’s laptop), which is the main reason we didn’t use it. His computer is rarely available for us to use for school because he needs it for work most days.

After this reading (or listening), there is a page or two in the notebooking journal to work on. In the Junior Notebooking Journal, this is usually coloring pages. I let Small Fry color these pages while he listened to me read – I know I have an easier time focusing if my hands are busy, and he’s proving to be the same (actually, all of my kids are). In the regular Notebooking Journal, it was pages to make note of what was learned (which helps to reinforce concepts beyond just the oral narration).

Then there was more reading and narration (some days).

apple mummySprinkled throughout are also experiments, so even if/when there was a lot of reading, there were some really fun activities to break it all up besides just the “worksheets.” These experiments are described right in the text, so there’s no need to try to find things that correspond with the lesson you’re working on. You will need some supplies for these experiments, but they’re nothing super abnormal. For example, of the first two activities, one required plastic cups, apple slices (one apple’s worth), salt, Epsom salt, and baking soda. Stuff that a lot of people have on hand anyway, and even if you don’t, they’re quite inexpensive in the regular grocery store. The second one only required a zipper-top baggie and a bit of water (to make a magnifying glass of sorts). Easy. If you’re concerned about your ability to get all of the supplies in time for the lesson, you can find kits online for this course that include every single thing you need for each experiment in the book, all sorted out by lesson. We didn’t get one of these this time, but it was definitely something I considered. In the end, we opted to just pick up the stuff as we needed it, which hasn’t been a problem yet. And if you don’t get a kit and do find out that you’re short on supplies for an experiment, it’s not a major deal to skip some and just do the ones that work into your home and family. This is what we ended up doing (though I did make sure we were able to cover as many of them as possible). Included in the front of the textbook was an experiment page that included the basic questions – what is the procedure for the experiment? What do you expect to happen? What actually happened? What did you learn from this experiment? For each experiment, I photocopied this page for each child. I had Munchkin do the page on his own and I let Small Fry dictate to me his answers.

k copyworkWhen you finish up the lesson reading (on day 4), there are a few other pages in the Notebooking Journals that you have the option of having your child work through, including things like mini books, copy work, and crossword puzzles. We did most of these because besides reinforcing what was learned over the past two weeks, they were just fun.

What We Thought

As I’ve mentioned throughout different points in this review, we have really enjoyed this science course. I love that my kids are learning all about their own bodies and how they work, all under the heading of “God made you this way; isn’t it amazing?” The kids, especially Small Fry, have really like learning about human bodies (their favorite so far is the chapter on bones). I think Small Fry really thrives on the consistency of the lessons – knowing that it will happen a couple of days each week is really good for him. He craves a schedule, and has really thrived on having one in these lessons. Munchkin is similar, but at the same time old enough to a) schedule himself what he needs to do each day and b) feel lucky when things work out to where the school day is shorter than expected for one reason or another.

edible cellBottom line: Will we continue to work through this class now that we don’t “have to” (per our obligations as curriculum reviewers)? Yes! I can see how my kids are thriving on these lessons, and I have no desire to take them away from the boys. We will absolutely be continuing this course.

There are lots more reviews of Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology on the Homeschool Review Crew this week. Make sure to click the banner below if you’re interested in reading more thoughts from real-life homeschool moms and kids on the class.

Blessings,

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Apologia - Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Reviews
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Lots and Lots of Children’s Books (review)

The little boys (ages 5 and 2) and I have had the pleasure the past few weeks of reading a few books by Carole P. Roman. We were able to choose three books from the Carole P. Roman books and collections. I opted for one chapter book, one fun picture book, and one learning picture book for us. All of the choices have been huge hits with my children, and I’ll take a few minutes here to discuss each one. 

carole p roman reviewIMG_1204For our chapter book, I picked Oh Susannah: Things That Go Bump ($6.99 paperback, $0.99 Kindle). This book is about 40 pages, divided over 10 chapters. It tells the story of a little girl named Susannah who is going to be having a sleepover at her friend Lola’s house. The only problem is that Lola lives in a haunted house! Not really, but it is a big, old, creaky house, and Susannah is afraid to go there. Over the course of the novel, Susannah comes into contact with characters (her parents and other friends) who help her see the world – especially the scary parts – in new ways. Susannah is very skeptical, and the first bit of her time (2 or 3 chapters) at Lola’s is just as frightening and nerve wracking as she expects. But by the end of the book, she learns that some things aren’t always as they seem. 

I’m glad I had a chance to read this book (we read 1-2 chapters a day, depending on length) with Small Fry. Even though a few sections were rather creepy and scary for him, I feel like it helped him learn that it’s better to talk over your feelings and push through things that you’re afraid of (within reason). 

IMG_1205The fun picture book we chose was Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life (volume 1) (currently on sale for $5 paperback, $1.99 Kindle). Because Captain No Beard is a typical picture book, we read it in one sitting – and have since read it dozens more times! 

Captain No Beard is the story of a boy, his cousin, and a crew of animals out on the open sea. Together, they learn some pirate words, spot land, rescue one of the members from falling overboard, and have a conversation with a mermaid. There’s a fun reveal at the end that completely caught my boys by surprise (though a grownup should be able to guess is based on the title of the book). They had so much fun with this book; I don’t think they stopped laughing once through the whole thing. I loved reading them a book that they so clearly loved hearing. They will love to get another volume of this series one day soon. And yes, Dragonfly did listen with us even though he’s not in the pictures. He’s not feeling very well this week and was being a bit stubborn at photo time.

IMG_1206The final book we received was If You Were Me and Lived In… France ($9.99 paperback, $1.99 Kindle). Because we’ve been studying French as our foreign language for several years (less than we should recently, since my laptop went kaput several months ago), I’ve wanted to get this book for the kids for a while, but it hadn’t happened yet. I’d intended for the big kids to read it on their own, and while they did we also had a side benefit that I hadn’t anticipated with this title: the little kids love it too! Just this morning, Dragonfly (2) brought it to me and asked to “read.” Of course I obliged! From nearly the first page, he was even repeating some of the French words after me. 

This book, which is part of a series that teaches children about different cultures all over the world, does a good job explaining what things are like for French children. (At least I think it does. I’ve never actually been to France to be able to compare.) It tells about the capital city of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. It takes you on a trip to a boulangerie (bakery). It describes he names that are popular in France, for both boys and girls. It just generally gives a lot of good, but fun, information about the subject. My only critique of this one is that the pronunciation guide isn’t always super precise. Some of the words are given the American pronunciation rather than the French pronunciation, but others are given the French pronunciation. For example, boulangerie is given its French pronunciation (boo-LAHN-jair-ee), but Eiffel is given the English/American pronunciation (EYE-full). The French pronunciation of Eiffel is ee-FELL. Generally speaking, that’s fairly minor (because I know enough French to have said the words correctly to the little boys).

We have had such a good time with all three of these books by Carole P. Roman. Her books are super fun, even those that are more educational than “just for fun.” I am so glad we were blessed to receive these books for review. 

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a large selection of books from the Carole P. Roman books and collections this week. Make sure to click the banner below to find out more! And if you’re the social media type, you can find Carole on the following platforms:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

Blessings,

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Carole P. Roman books and collections {Carole P. Roman Reviews}
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Fuse Beads, but safe! (Zirrly review)

When my older kids were small (circa 2009), a friend gave us a set of fuse beads. You know the kind: make a picture on a small peg board and iron them to melt the beads together. Easy enough, but not very kid-safe. Now there’s a much friendlier option: Super Beads from Zirrly. Remembering how much fun the older boys (especially Seahawk) had way back then, I thought they would like to try these.

Zirrly review

Knowing how creative my kids are, I chose to review the Mega Pack of Super Beads. They have specific kits (birds, animals, cars, etc), but I chose the generic pack for my kids. The Mega Pack comes with 4 interlocking peg boards (which can be used individually for small projects or connected together for bigger ones), 4500 beads, 4 design templates (5 each of 4 designs – elephant, turtle, apple, and cupcake), 2 spray bottles, the design tool (to help lift the beads off the tray, either after they’re fused or before if you made a mistake), and an instruction sheet. 

Small Fry with Zirrly elephantI had the kids use a couple of the templates to get the hang of the Super Beads before I let them branch out on their own. Small Fry (age 5) was the first one to create with the beads; he chose the elephant for his first project. He did it largely without help, which was great as he’s at the very bottom end of the recommended age. I put the template under the peg board for him, and then he did the rest basically on his own. Once he’d gotten it (nearly) perfect, we filled up one of the water bottles and spritzed his creation all over. The instructions say to get it wet but not to soak it so much that it sits in a puddle, so we were fairly liberal with the water. We let it dry for about an hour, then tried to peel it off of the board. After having a little bit of trouble, we decided to let it dry for longer. Then it came off fairly easily using the design tool.

zirrly beeMunchkin (11) was next. He had seen how they work from his younger brother (and really, it’s not so complicated for an older kid). So he took one of the template designs and improved upon it by making an apple with a worm. He’s also made several of his own designs, including a bee and a rainbow fish.

zirrly worm apple

zirrly campfireSeahawk (14) was the one who really liked fuse beads as a young child. Combine that with his current age, and I pretty much let him go to town from the very beginning. He’s made several things. I think the little kids’ favorite of his creations is the Troll Hunters amulet (they love the show and love playing games around the plot). But the piece of his that I’m most impressed with is the campfire. 

After some trial and error, Seahawk came up with a “new” method of drying the beads so that the designs stuck together better: dry it overnight on the peg board, then remove it and let it dry on the other side for an hour or two before playing with it. Ever since we started doing that, we haven’t had any problems with our creations falling apart. Except for the time when Dragonfly, age 2, got hold of one of them and ripped it apart. But even then, he just pulled the legs off an E (which was fairly fragile in the first place as it was only connected by 2 beads in any specific point); he couldn’t split it back to individual beads.

zirrly fishMy kids have had so much fun with the Super Beads from Zirrly. Small Fry, especially. He asks basically every day if he can build something with the “water beads.” It’s a really great way for him to spend some time alone (if he’s feeling overwhelmed or even if I just need him to be occupied for a few minutes while I do school stuff with the older kids). I love that he’s having fun and that it’s screen-free time. I definitely recommend them!

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing all sorts of options from Zirrly this week, including some of the kits I mentioned earlier: Jungle Animals, 3D Animals, Birds, 3D Car and Truck, Spinning Tops, Jewelry Set, and of course the Mega Pack. Click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Super Beads {Zirrly Reviews}
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Hands On History (Home School in the Woods review)

History is an easy subject to make dry and boring. It’s just as easy to make it fun and interesting. So why wouldn’t you go for the latter? That’s just what Amy Pak and the rest of her family, who founded and run Home School in the Woods, think. And they’ve developed a line of curriculum to do just that. Recently, we were blessed to be able to review several items from the Á La Carte line. Each of these products is a digital download that you print out to make your own hands-on history project. There are so many to choose from that it was hard to decide which ones I wanted for this review!

HSitW review

IMG_1186First up, the boys (the three older ones, ages 14, 11, and 5) have had a lot of fun playing the Pirate Panopoly game. This game comes with several pages, but really only two of them are necessary: the pirate and his clothes. The game is played like many other preschool level games, so was easy enough for my 5-year-old but still engaging for the older boys. Each player gets a printout of the pirate in his “skivvies” and one of his clothes. They can color the pictures if they want (mine didn’t – boys!) and then cut out the clothes. Once that’s done, each player sets his pieces in front of him. On his turn, he rolls a die and depending on the number shown puts a piece of clothing on his pirate. The first person to fully dress his pirate wins! 

This was a fun activity because on top of being a game (who doesn’t love to play “instead of” doing school?), students learn about the clothes of yesteryear. On the pirate page, there are labels naming and describing each piece of clothing. And if your kids are extra curious, you could easily make this part of a bigger unit study. In fact, it’s originally part of the Time Travelers: New World Explorers unit from Home School in the Woods. Pirate Panopoly is available for $1.95.

IMG_1187Next, we learned all about how orchestras have changed through the ages with The Orchestra file folder project. I chose this one for the boys because they dance ballet. I thought it would be good for them to learn more about the music they’re dancing to every week, and I was right.

In this file folder project, you print out the images provided and glue the “stage” to your file folder. (We used an 11×17 sheet of paper because we didn’t have any file folders available.) Then you cut out the different pockets (each with a number that corresponds to a space on the stage) and glue or tape them into place. We were out of glue sticks when we did this project, so we used tape which proved to be a little tricky, but we managed in the end. Once that’s done, you cut out the different instruments and start studying the different time periods. For each time period, your student can slide the appropriate instruments into the pockets representing where the people who play that instrument would sit in an orchestra of the time period. It was really interesting for all of us to learn how those positions changed over time. The Orchestra is available for $4.95.

IMG_1185Finally, we received the Frontline News newspaper. This has been a really cool project for the older boys (they’re still working on it each school day). The PDF has 19 pages. The last 14 are what you need to print for your kids (really just 12 of the last 14; one of the pages is there twice and you print the one you want depending on whether you want the “classified ads” filled in or left blank for your student to complete). I printed ours double sided to make it feel more authentic.

Each page has space for your student to write two articles, plus room for them to design an ad or two. Some of the articles come with photographs built in. Students are given a headline, which tells what they need to research, and then they fill in the rest, writing an article based on what they learned. For the most part, we were able to find the information using the large pile of books we got from the library, but there were also a few rather obscure stories that we ended up having to look online for. For example, did you know that the Navajo people used their language as a sort of “secret code” to help the Allies? That was something that didn’t show up in any of our books, not even the “Everything World War II” one.

You could move at whatever pace is good for your students when doing the newspaper project. Since this is now our main history for the time being (we’re not doing anything else or even supplementing this in any way), I’ve had the boys do one article and one ad per day. Between the research and the writing, that takes them a reasonable amount of time for the subject, without being too overwhelming. Frontline News is available for $2.95.

Overall, I’ve been really pleased with our choices, especially the newspaper. The boys agree that it’s a really fun way to learn about history, and we’ve decided together that we will very likely be purchasing more of these once they finish up Frontline News.

There are so many choices in the Á La Carte projects from Home School in the Woods that I can’t possibly mention them all here, but besides the categories of products I’ve reviewed, there are also Timelines (the Composers Through History timeline would go very nicely with The Orchestra file folder project), 3D projects (The Art of Quilling looks especially neat), Lapbooks, and more! I really hope you’ll check them out, especially if you need to breathe new life into your history studies. Each of the projects has its own recommended age level, but there are things from K all the way through 12th grade, so you’re guaranteed to find something that will work for your kids.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew had their choice of anything from the Á La Carte “menu,” so make sure to click the banner below to find reviews on other projects!

Blessings,

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À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
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Parenting Made Practical (review)

Being a parent is hard work. Anyone with kids – especially teenagers – can attest to that. It can be a very frustrating process to teach your kids to really listen to you and not just tune out as soon as you open your mouth to chastise/discipline them. Taming the Lecture Bug . . . and Getting Your Kids to Think by Joey and Carla Link is a book for parents of kids ages 8 and up to help teach you how to get your kids to actually start taking responsibility for their actions instead of constantly giving them the same lecture over and over again. 

PMP review

This book, offered by Parenting Made Practical, has 12 chapters for parents to work through. The opening chapter, Blah, Blah, Blah, takes the authors’ real life experiences with their children and showcases how they used to just lecture their children whenever they (the kids) didn’t do something. Sound familiar? It does to me. I’m sure there are a lot of parents out there who utilize this technique as a form of teaching discipline. But think back to your own teenage years; did you listen – really listen – when you were getting one of these lectures from your parents? Yeah, me neither. Teens and pre-teens think they’re so smart. Much smarter than their parents. This is why lecturing them doesn’t work. 

The psychology of the child goes much deeper than that, though. Taming the Lecture Bug also has chapters on that, explaining not only why kids don’t think, but why to a certain extent it’s the parents’ fault they don’t. They break it down into six main reasons: reminders, lectures, anger, busyness, expectations, and being well-trained (the parents by the kids, not the other way round). By not teaching our children to manage their time well (and suffering the consequences when they don’t), we’re actually doing more harm than good for our kids. This was a bit of a hard pill for me to swallow, because I always want to help my kids and keep them out of trouble. But in the long run, I’m not helping by doing that. Reminding them of their chores and schoolwork is actually doing them harm (according to the authors of this book).

In order to “tame the lecture bug” in yourself, you have to open up a dialogue with your children. The key word there is dialogue – not monologue. Start retraining your children’s stubborn heart by teaching (or reminding) them about sin. We all need to be in a good place with God, and that means confessing our sins. As long as our children are being defiant to us, they’re also being defiant to God. Instead of lecturing (the monologue), ask them open-ended questions (Why did/didn’t you do that? What were you thinking when you did that? How do you think I felt when in,earned of your behavior? Did you think you’d get away with it?) to start a dialogue. Use their answers as a springboard to the sin conversation. 

It’s not an easy path, but we all knew that when we decided to have kids. With the help of resources like this one, it can be a little easier though.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are discussing a variety of Parenting Made Practical resources this week. Click the banner below to learn more about

Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave?

Navigating the Rapids of Parenting

Dating, Courting, and Choosing a Mate… What Works?

What Every Child Should Know Along the Way

as well as a video version of Taming the Lecture Bug.

Blessings,

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Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}
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(Re)Learning Cursive with CursiveLogic (review)

A few weeks ago, the opportunity to review the CursiveLogic Quick Start Pack was presented to me. I might have passed, but then I got to thinking about Seahawk and how he sometimes forgets how to form his cursive letters. And when he doesn’t forget, they’re often sloppy – not difficult to read per se, just messy. So after some careful consideration, I decided he could probably benefit from CursiveLogic. In addition to the main curriculum workbook, we also received a copy of the The Art of Cursive coloring book. The other benefit of doing this review at this time was that it was right around the time we were displaced due to flooding, and having a physical workbook was something of a calming influence. It’s hard to explain, but it really helped us to feel grounded in a frantic time in our lives.

CursiveLogic review

CursiveLogic is a bit of a different approach to writing in cursive. It doesn’t just teach the letters. Instead, this method breaks each letter down by shape, helping students to figure out the very basics of writing in cursive. Students learn at a young age to draw circles, but they’re never (usually) really taught how to use that basic skill to influence their handwriting. Thinking about it after having used CursiveLogic with my son (age 14) for a few weeks, and it really makes a lot of sense now, though. CursiveLogic has broken it down into four basic “starting” shapes, and every single letter in the English alphabet falls into one of those categories. The main one I’ll focus on today is the “orange oval,” which includes the letters A, C, D, G, Q, and O (in lowercase).

IMG_1144Lessons are grouped by the color shape of the different letters, so your student won’t be learning the letters in alphabetical order. Each lesson has several parts and is divided up into “days.” Depending on your student and his or her maturity and motivation, you could potentially move quite quickly through the lessons. We chose to move a bit slower (as written, not too slow), but that’s because I really wanted to monitor my son and make sure he was mastering each shape as we moved. He’s a typical teenager and tends to a) be more concerned about finishing than doing well and b) easily revert back to old habits. I really wanted him to focus and get those shapes down as muscle memory before we moved on, so we didn’t move as fast as we might otherwise have with a student who already knows how to read, print, and write in cursive.

cursivelogic comparisonYou can see in Seahawk’s “before” picture that his handwriting was adequate. Not amazing, not terrible, but adequate. After working on this lesson for just a few days, he showed great improvement. The thing that really helped him master it was when I explained to him that the oval shape has a bit of a hook on top before changing from the shape to the letter. Before this, he was getting more of a slide up into the letters rather than the oval shape. Once he understood the purpose of the oval, his handwriting improved immensely – and he said it was easier to write that way! It was quite rewarding to watch him “get it” and hear how much he appreciated these lessons. But it’s easier to appreciate something when you (the student) can see your own improvement, which was totally the case with Seahawk and CursiveLogic.

When he finishes the workbook, I think Seahawk will enjoy taking some colored pencils to the coloring book. We didn’t do a whole lot with it during the review period because I wanted him to focus on the actual work at hand (remember that teenager mentality – he could easily have tried to talk me into letting him color instead of doing a lesson, and that’s not adequate). In fact, The Art of Cursive is designed as a supplement to the curriculum, and is not intended to be something done instead of the lessons. He does seem quite interested in being able to work on the pictures that “are made up of cursive letters and words.” I think having that coloring book hanging out “mocking” him will be good motivation to him being willing to finish this curriculum.

In addition to the workbook and coloring book, CursiveLogic has a webinar. I wasn’t able to view it because we have iffy internet at the moment, what with being in temporary housing. Especially at the beginning of this review, I had no idea when we would be moving again. There are lots more Crew reviews, though, and several (maybe even most, I’m not sure) of them did watch the webinar, so make sure to click the banner below and check those out so you can learn more about that.

If you’re interested in trying CursiveLogic with your child (or yourself!), now is a great time to do it. CursiveLogic is offering a 20% discount on the CursiveLogic Quick Start Pack, which includes the workbook (not the coloring book) and webinar. These retail for $49 together. Just use coupon code CREW2018, which is good through March 31st, 2018.

Blessings,

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The Art of Cursive & Quick Start Cursive {Cursive Logic Reviews}
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