Fermenting Food (Fermentools review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

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I don’t have much experience with fermented foods, but I’ve read that they’re very good for you (due to all the probiotics produced during the fermentation process). So I was curious about the idea of using the Starter Kit from Fermentools to give fermenting a try.

The Fermentools Starter Kit was designed to be able to turn any wide-mouth Mason jar into a fermenting vessel. You provide the jar, food, and  distilled water; Fermentools provides the rest. The kit includes:

  • a glass weight specifically designed to fit inside a wide-mouthed jar
  • a stainless steel lid
  • an airlock
  • two rubber stoppers (one with a hole and one solid)
  • a rubber canning stopper
  • a 1-lb bag of Himalayan powdered salt
  • an instruction guide, which includes a recipe for basic saurkraut

4A57384D-776A-45FF-AC6B-E2524C434AE9When I first opened my kit and read the instruction guide, I didn’t fully understand all the terminology used (“airlock,” for instance), so I found a couple of helpful videos on YouTube to get me started. Then it was time to go to the store, where I bought some wide-mouth jars (I don’t can as much as I wish I did, so I only had a single regular-mouth jar on hand) and asparagus. I’d read that asparagus ferments really well, and I was able to get a fantastic deal on it at the store. I got home and started it right away. From what I’d read, you don’t need to add other stuff to the ferment if you don’t want to, so I opted to try just a very, very basic recipe. I prepared a 2% brine solution using the salt provided with the Fermentools kit and distilled water, poured it over my asparagus, added the glass weight to the top of the jar (this is to keep the food below the level of the brine for proper fermenting), lidded my jar, and waited.

BEB1F8DF-78C7-4355-A707-C6BC07F46EECTo prepare the brine, all you need is non-chlorinated water (so no tap water) and the salt included in the kit. The salt is super finely ground so that it will dissolve in cold water. On the bag of salt, there’s a table to help you figure out the proper solution you need/want. On one side of the bag, it tells the number of grams you need based on the amount of water you’re using. On the other side, it gives an approximation gram-to-tablespoon ratio, so it’s more user-friendly for an average home cook.

Fast forward one week, and I took my jar out of the cabinet where I’d stashed it. (You’re supposed to keep the fermenting jar somewhere dark.) I was surprised to see that things were a bit bigger than they’d started. In fact, there was a bit of liquid coming up out of the airlock, which surprised me. It probably shouldn’t have, because upon rereading the instruction pamphlet, it says to leave extra space for this in your jar. But that was okay. It didn’t leave a mess in the cupboard or anything. I popped open the jar and gave each of my kids a piece of asparagus. I expected them all to love it because we love pickles in our house. And the teenagers did like it okay. But the younger crowd didn’t like it at all. I liked it okay, but it wasn’t my favorite thing ever.

I didn’t want this review to be a fizzle, so I tried my hand at fermented cucumbers. You know, because my kids like pickles. But because of quarantine, I didn’t have a lot of “off the wall” ingredients on hand (like fresh dill), so I again went with a very basic recipe: thickly sliced cucumbers and brine. I followed the same steps as I had for the asparagus, but this time I used a 3.5% brine solution. A few days later, Grasshopper and I tried the cucumbers. He didn’t like those, either. And frankly, I didn’t love them either.

So, thus far, our fermenting journey hasn’t been super successful. I’m not at a point where I’m considering giving up yet, but I probably will take a break until I can get my hands on some of those more unusual ingredients. I really do want to have a fermenting success story, but that hasn’t happened yet.

I do know, however, that some of my fellow Homeschool Review Crew members have done great things with the Fermentools Starter Kit, so go to the blog there and read some of those reviews. I know I plan to, just to see where I went wrong!

Blessings,

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Beautiful Handwriting ebook (review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

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Many people dislike their own handwriting. I am not one of those people. But I was interested in reviewing the Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting ebook from Everyday Education, LLC anyway because it promises to be able to teach you how to write in italics. The idea of that really appealed to me, and that was my intention of how to use the book. But then when I started working on it, a couple of my kids (Grasshopper, age 7, and Scorpion, age 13) showed some interest too, so we went back to the beginning and worked on it together. And that made it even better!

Janice Campbell, the owner of Everyday Education, used a book when her first child was young that taught reading and handwriting at the same time. She loved its approach, and was excited to use it again when she had another child ready for that teaching. Imagine her dismay when the book was out of print! Many of us would have given up at that, perhaps feeling sorry for ourselves for a few days, but we would have eventually moved on and found another curriculum. Janice didn’t do that. She tracked down the author, Caroline Joy Adams, of her beloved book and convinced her to republish the book with Janice’s company. This way, Janice was sure to have the book in print for a very long time, for any homeschooling families who might want to use it.

55FF7DC5-F0BE-4953-B071-56DBAE28E15DThe book has six chapters, and the first five are primarily teaching a child to read (although the writing is intimately involved with that process). Chapter 1 is an overview for the teacher. Chapter 2 teaches the alphabet. Chapter 3 is basic English sounds and blends and words that use them. (For example, “short a,” “short e,” “sh, th blends,” “compound words,” etc). Chapter 4 is similar to chapter 3, but with different sounds (long vowels, more complicated blends, etc). Chapter 5 are the most complicated parts of English: silent letters, endings, contractions, and more). Chapter 6 is where the author suggests starting if your main goal is to simply improve your own handwriting. This is the chapter for people who already know how to read and are learning more beautiful handwriting techniques. This is where I would have spent most of my time except that, as I mentioned before, my kids joined me. Even if it had just been Scorpion and me, we would have worked there, but Grasshopper doesn’t read very strongly yet, so we started at the beginning with all of us.

The PDF ebook is printable, and because of the nature of the book (lots of practice pages), that would be a great approach for a lot of families. For us, I just set up my iPad on the table to the right page, and we all worked onto regular paper instead. When you’re learning the alphabet (which I actually recommend, even if you’re mostly interested in the italics portion of the book), the instruction/practice pages teach you the letter, an example of a word with that sound, and how to write that letter, stroke by stroke. It’s that last part that makes me recommend going through the alphabet pages even if you’re already a proficient reader. Most of these were “normal,” but a couple of them were different from the way we (my family) normally write. I’m thinking specifically the lowercase e, the capital M, and the capital Q.

I have really enjoyed doing these handwriting lessons with my boys. It gives us something to do together during the school day, and those types of things can be few and far between when you’re working with as wide an age range as I am. And for me to be able to join them was really special too. Because Grasshopper was joining us, we moved slower than we otherwise would have, but that was okay too. I fully intend to keep going with these lessons, and we’ll make it through the entire book soon enough.

Don’t forget to read more reviews from the Homeschool Review Crew.

Blessings,

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Reading at 4 years old! (Reading Unlocked review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

Sometimes as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew, you get assigned products that you’re unsure will be a good fit for your family. Part of being on the team means you do your best to give those products a fair trial, and in that process you are sometimes right about it not having been a good fit. But sometimes you are very, very wrong, and a product ends up being an amazing asset for one or more of your children. Reading Unlocked has been such a product for us.
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Because I didn’t want to mix things up for Grasshopper now that he’s finally getting the hang of reading, I decided to use Reading Unlocked with Dragonfly, who is just 4 years old. I was really hesitant to start him out because he’s so young (in fact, I asked specifically to not be on this review because of that). And there were moments in the early days when I was sure I was right. It was really frustrating at first. But, as we kept on it (admittedly too slow and irregularly for a while), things started to click for him. I was stunned, and ridiculously pleased. But let’s back up a bit and talk about the program itself.

39E87083-CA5E-4168-8334-6EAFD4B7719BWhen you first go to the website, you have to log in (of course). When you do, you’re taken immediately to to the lessons. There are 3 levels of the program, and by going to the settings (which are available straight from the lesson page; there is no “parent portal” as near as I can tell) you choose which one is best for your child. The choices are given in examples rather than descriptions. Because Dragonfly has never had any sort of reading instruction before, we started at  “a b c d sun red pot mud.” Also in the settings, you can choose which lesson within the level (each stage has 25 lessons) and whether you want a British or American accent. 

6037B4A8-715A-4D8E-96FB-61EBA0CE755FLessons at level one teach letters and simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. Each instruction and teaching moment is spoken by the program itself, and children are instructed to do things like “say it with me” followed by a letter sound, touch the correct picture associated with a specific beginning sound, write letters on paper, read words and match the right picture, and more. 4C8395B8-E16E-435C-9827-F4EAB2EF6739Periodically, parents are asked which of the recently taught sounds the child knows. You “give” the answer by toggling the switch red or green. Any letters that are left red are reviewed one more time before moving on to reading words.
It’s a very simple program, but it works! A month ago, my 4-year-old could recognize an A (because it’s the first letter of his name), but that was as far as his “reading skills” went. Now, he can easily tell me the sounds of 5 letters and read words like “can,” “pan,” “nap,” “cat,” and “cap.” My skepticism about this program, even for young children, is gone, and I can’t recommend it enough.

3658CF68-3B41-4583-8F7E-17875FA2FCF0Now, all that gushing said, there are a couple of issues I need to address. Earlier, when I mentioned there was a choice between a British and American accent, that is technically true, but I must have changed the setting to American and clicked save a dozen times or more. But every time a lesson started (immediately after clicking save), it had reverted to the British accent. That didn’t cause too much trouble, but that could be because I was super involved and basically repeated everything for my son (much slower than the program). Because it wouldn’t allow the American accent setting to stick, it used British phrases too, like “draw” instead of “write” in reference to letters and words. Also, the recording of the voice wasn’t the same from slide to slide, which I found a little distracting, but it didn’t seem to bother Dragonfly. And finally, you could hear the white noise on the recording a little before and after each instruction. Again, not a deal breaker, but potentially an issue for some kids.

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So, in conclusion, Reading Unlocked is a fantastic program, but it has a few minor bugs that would be nice to see adjusted. That said, will we continue to use it? Absolutely! 

Blessings,

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As always with my reviews, other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are also discussing this product this week. Make sure to click through for more information!

Music for Babies, Before and After Birth ~ Preborn Prodigy Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

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Have you ever wondered just how much certain types of sounds and music influence a person? This day and age, we all accept that babies in the womb can hear us, but how much influence does what we say have on them?

Sara Bumgarner, the owner of Preborn Prodigyhas done some research for you, and the answer to both questions is, A LOT! So she created three albums using her research, and I’m going to tell you a bit about them today.

In Prayers and Blessings for the Unborn Child, we hear gentle music, which is overlaid with promises, many of which come directly from Scripture. The narrator reads promises and assurances in many categories: 

  • Health and Delivery talks about the unborn baby’s health and development, as well as prayers for an easy and safe delivery
  • Protection and Provision includes prayers and promises from scripture about God’s sovereignty and role as provider in our lives
  • Spiritual Growth and Dedication reads scriptures to teach how to live a godly life
  • Identity and Destiny is from the point of view of God, assuring babies of who they are and their purpose
  • Spirit, Soul, and Body has blessings parents want for their children but don’t always think of 
  • Salvation tells about Jesus and what salvation means and how to get it
  • Blessing and Lullaby is a sweet song directly from the Old Testament, and is sung rather than spoken

The idea behind this record is to play it while Mom is still pregnant, and the blessings and promises contained will offer assurances to the baby that he is loved, wanted, and not a mistake, before he is even born. A pregnant mom can play the record while she goes about her day, or she can play it over headphones on her belly during a few moments of quiet time.

Prayers and Blessings for Newborn to 99 is basically the sale album, but words are adjusted to be appropriate for anyone who has already been born. The tracks counteract the “bad stuff” we sometimes tell ourselves: “I’m a failure, I’m a mistake, I don’t matter.” 

Math Prodigy is very different from the other two albums. Instead of reading prayers and blessings, it reads math concepts and equations over the top of gentle, pleasing music. It sounds strange, and it was at first, but it is based on the experience of a math professor (who Ms. Bumgarner saw on a TV news show) who had read about math to his pregnant wife’s belly. Fast forward 5 years, and their child was a math genius. Whether a coincidence (Dad was a math professor, after all) or because of the readings, it’s an interesting idea, and one that Preborn Prodigy ran with in creating this album. Tracks include

  • Introduction to Math
  • Addition and Subtraction   
  • Multiplication and Division    
  • Fractions    
  • Decimals and the Order of Operations

I played these albums for my kids at bedtime (they usually listen to audiobooks anyway). They thought they were weird at first, but they warmed up fairly quickly. They probably won’t ever ask to listen to them, but they won’t say “no” if I put it on.

I received digital downloads of these albums, but they are primarily available as CDs. (We don’t have a CD player.) Math Prodigy is available only in English, but the two Prayers and Blessings albums are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, German, Hebrew, and Afrikaans. Each CD (one album in one language) is available for $14.99. You can also purchase an instrumental version for $9.99 or a PDF of the written blessings (to read aloud to your child) for $6.99.

Many members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing these albums this week, from all walks of life. I encourage you to click through and learn more.

Blessings,

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Math Apps for All Ages ~ Math Galaxy review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

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I don’t know about your kids, but my kids love having iPad time. I have to be pretty strict with them, because they would spend all day watching movies and playing games if I wasn’t. When I found out about Math Galaxy, I requested this review so that I could “reclaim” some of that time for productivity. I selected apps for each of my three school-age kids (3rd Grade Math, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra), as well as 2 supplemental apps (Word Problems Fun and Addition and Subtraction Balloon Pop). Part way through the review period, I received an email from the founder of Math Galaxy letting me know of new app they’d just released, Preschool Math, so I downloaded that one for Dragonfly (4 years old). I will talk about each one in turn here. Math Galaxy also offers ebooks, and I will touch on those at the end of this review as well.

3rd Grade Math

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This was for Grasshopper (surprise, surprise – he seems to be becoming a large part of my blog these days!). He is technically only in 2nd grade, but I thought he was fairly advanced in math, so I wanted to try this with him. The screenshot above shows the main menu, and each of those categories has many lessons. For example, “numbers in base 10” has lessons in adding, subtracting, estimating, and place value. “Operations and Algebraic Thinking” is mostly multiplication and division. And so on.

Because this was officially above his “pay grade,” we stuck mostly with the Base 10 category. As I had hoped, he really enjoyed it. He needed a bit of instruction because we haven’t used base 10 blocks much (he knows the concept of place value, he just didn’t recognize the blocks), but then he was off and running.

Pre-Algebra Fundamentals

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Scorpion has been working through Pre-Algebra this year, so I requested this as a supplement for him. Because he’s done some pre-algebra already, he jumped around a bit, spending time mostly in Decimals and Word Problems.

Scorpion tells me that the program was neither too easy not too hard. It covered the material well and was enjoyable to work through. He would recommend to other students as a good option for extra practice.

Algebra Fundamentals 

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Ballet Boy has done Algebra I off and on (usually depending on what curriculum we have at a particular time), so he, like his brothers, had a bit of a jump start on his app. He picked up where he left off in previous math book, Linear Equations. He had to be reminded somewhat about the math, but it came back to him quickly. He too quite enjoyed using the apps.

Preschool Math

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Dragonfly is 4, and he’s at the age where he’s really interested in learning. He was so excited to get a math program of his own, and he’s been the one to actually use it the most! Because he’s only 4 still, I haven’t done a whole lot of formal education with him. For this reason, we avoided things like Matching Sums and focused instead on keeping things fun with Tracing Numbers and Froggie Count. His favorite activity was Tracing Numbers, specifically the 5. I’m not entirely sure why, but he gravitated to the 5 every time. 

Addition and Subtraction Balloon Pop

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This app is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Choose the difficulty of problems you want to work, and then pop the balloon with the answer to the problem at the top of the screen. This is more game than work, and my kids treated as such – Grasshopper loved it!

Word Problems Fun

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This app is an adventure game for one to four players. You select a player and move around the board, exploring “caves” and answering math problems along the way. The screenshot above is from just “inside a cave,” where we’ve just answered the problem correctly and now have the option of going inside properly. This wasn’t our favorite app.

Ebooks

In addition to these apps, we also received over 30 ebooks from Galaxy. The books are large workbooks full of practice worksheets. I didn’t use these as much as I wish I could have, but we did use a few pages from the ones that matches our studies. 

Each worksheet is a riddle. There’s a question and a series of boxes along the top, and math problems in the bulk of the page. Students solve the problem and then find the correct answer from the answer bank, each of which is assigned a letter. Put the letters in the boxes to solve the riddle. (For example: What do you give a snake at bedtime? A good night hiss.)

The ebooks were fantastic to have on hand to quickly print off some extra practice for the kids, especially on days when I wanted them to go screen free. My only complaint is that the answer page for each one came directly after the work page, unlike most books where you get a book full of worksheets followed by all the answer keys together. That’s not really a big thing; in fact, as I think about it while I’m writing at this moment, it’s probably just that it was an unfamiliar way of doing things for me, and therefore I didn’t like it much.

Overall, we have had a good time working with Math Galaxy over the past few weeks, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to do so!

Blessings,

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Math Galaxy has tons of different apps, and members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing them all this week. Some members are even focusing more on the ebooks than the apps (which, by the way, are available only for Apple, not Android). I highly recommend you head over to the Crew blog to learn more about the huge variety of apps and books offered by Math Galaxy!

Learning About the Past: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

I’ve read a few YWAM Publishing books in the past, but always with my older boys. I was excited when the opportunity arose this time because Grasshopper (7 years old) is old enough to listen. We chose from the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series, Corrie ten Boom: Keeper if the Angels’ Den. I chose this book for two reasons. First, Corrie ten Boom was used as a sermon illustration by our pastor at church a few weeks ago (around the time we were selecting the book we wanted to review). Second, Grasshopper and I had read another true story from the WWII era this school year (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes), and he wanted to learn more. 
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About YWAM Publishing 

YWAM Publishing started in 1972 as an outreach of YWAM (Youth with a Mission), printing and distributing gospel tracts during the Munich Olympics. Within the first year, they had expanded to books, distributed all throughout the Eastern Bloc countries. Now located in Seattle, they have over 300 titles of their own. They also work as distributors for other Christian companies, selling books, DVDs, and resources for homeschooling families. 

YWAM Publishing’s Christian Heroes: Then and Now series has 49 books, and their Heroes of History series has 29 titles. Many of these also have study guides to make the biographies into a complete unit study.

About Corrie ten Boom 

Corrie ten Boom was a watchmaker in her father’s at-home clock shop, the first woman of the trade in the Netherlands. She was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis as a teenager and spent 6 months in bed because of it (turned out to be appendicitis). As a young adult, she created many clubs for other young men and women in her town; within just a few years one of her clubs had grown to many hundreds of members and their annual performance drew an audience of more than 1000. 

The Germans invaded Holland in 1940, when Corrie (properly, Cornelia, makes after her mother) was 48. They promptly shut down her clubs. Two years later, in 1942, a woman showed up on their doorstep, claiming to be a Jew in need of help. Casper, Corrie’s father, agreed immediately. He read the Bible twice a day, every day, to his family and believed with all his heart that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and he would therefore do anything he could to help them. This the ten Boom home, Beje (bay-yay), became known as The Hiding Place.

On February 28, 1944, all of the ten Booms were arrested after having been outed by a Dutch informant. Her father and sister, Betsie, died in custody. 

After the war, Corrie was released and became a world traveler, public speaker, and author. Her most famous book is The Hiding Place. She died on her birthday in 1983, at age 91.

How we used it

As suggested, Grasshopper and I read (well, we are still reading) this book together. I didn’t use the full study guide (of which I received a digital copy), but I have been utilizing the comprehension questions with him. He was very wary about starting to read the book, but from the very first paragraph he was hooked. He has asked to read more regularly since I convinced him to start listening the first time. In summary, YWAM Publishing biographies have found a new generation of love in my family!

Blessings,

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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a variety of YWAM biographies this week, from both series. Make sure to click through and learn more! 

Product Review: Connections Stationary Kit

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

Grasshopper, who you met earlier today in a Meet the Family post, enjoys writing letters. His favorite person to write to was my dad, and even though Grandpa died earlier this year, I want my son to still enjoy writing letters. It was for this reason I asked to review the Connections Stationary Kit (the misspelling is intentional) from Byron’s Games.

FC65F60D-5689-4E9A-9CED-0C42F2AB5EB1Grasshopper was really excited to see the kit when it arrived, and for good reason. It includes everything your child needs to write and send letters (except the stamps). Included in the box is 

  • 25 printed sheets of stationery paper
  • 25 matching envelopes 
  • 36 envelope-seal stickers
  • 2 ink pads (pink and blue)
  • 1 “thank you” rubber stamp
  • 1 pen

I was very impressed when I first opened up the kit. The box feels very high quality, and inside everything is neatly placed in its spot. It comes with a plastic tray very much like what you’d find inside a board game, so that all the items can stack inside the box while not being disastrous and “ugly.” This tray also helps keep the kit organized even as your child uses some of the supplies. The paper and envelopes themselves are also very high quality. It’s not just printed computer paper in there; the stationery paper is thick (no bleed through from the pen), but not like card stock. If you’ve ever used purchased stationery, you know what I’m talking about. 

5D05884D-4D26-41C8-8F32-C65D3D5C392CGrasshopper wrote letters to my parents (mom and stepdad) on one sheet, which we forgot to photograph before mailing. He also wrote a note to one of his dance friends, thanking her and her family for coming over for dinner (before coronavirus!). He hand delivered that letter. This is the note you see in the graphic above. The envelope is the actual one he used; I just covered up her name for privacy (which is the reason for the off-colored box). This particular little girl (she’s 6) has a huge crush on my son, so he indulged her a little bit by using a heart sticker on the back of the envelope.

We treated the letter writing a bit like copy work. We worked together to dictate a letter, which I wrote down on regular paper. Grasshopper then took a piece of his stationery and the page I wrote, then copied the letter down on the nice paper. On top of being a good way for him to practice his handwriting skills, it made him feel good when he was able to successfully write a legible note that made sense.

My son has really enjoyed using this kit. He’s been very picky about who is “worthy” of a letter because of the limited number of sheets he has, but that’s not automatically a bad thing; he’s using discernment and being very careful about not wasting his resources. 

Byron’s Games also makes the Continent Race game, and some of my fellow crew members are reviewing that this week as well. If you’re looking for a fun way to teach or reinforce geography, I recommend you head over to the Crew blog to find out more. 

Blessings,

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Venturing with God in Congo (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

I love the work that missionaries do, so I was pleased to accept a review for Venturing with God in Congo, a book from Conjurske Publishing.

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The book is a very nice feeling, matte finish hardcover book spanning 290 pages. Even my non-reading 4-year-old was fascinated by the cover. “What are those eyes?” “Is that a python?!” So even though you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, I’d say the publishers nailed it with this cover. And the inside is just a beautiful as the outside, with an African savannah scene on the end pages and easy-to-read font for the text.

DDBD38E9-7B50-4E7E-A098-540C3B88C2DCThe book opens with a quote from Darrell Champlin (the main subject of the book and late husband of the author, Louise Champlin) about missions, followed by the table of contents, pronunciation tips for the foreign (Lingala) words, a timeline of events, and map of Congo.

514EA17E-FFC7-43C3-8F98-9A401F66BFFCUnfortunately, I’ve been very busy lately, so I assigned this review to Scorpion. Being a 13-year-old boy, he wasn’t especially wordy, but here is his review:

Venturing with God in Congo is a fascinating book about Darrel Champlin, his family, and how they grew to become some of the most famous men and women in the Congo. It takes place in the mid-1950s and 1960s. It goes into great detail on all of the wonders of the great African jungles, which I personally love.

2048057F-812F-44A5-AAD5-B38D0294DDA9It has a photo gallery with real photographs from their adventures. It’s full of fantastic adventures and riveting storytelling, combining to make this an amazing, inspiring book. I would recommend this book for any young missionary, or just as a fun read. Please enjoy Venturing with God in Congo.

After looking briefly over the book and reading my son’s thoughts on it, I am looking forward to reading it myself!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 


As with all Homeschool Review Crew reviews, there are loads more people talking about this book this week. Please click over to the Review Crew site to find out more.

The Continuing Adventures of Captain No Beard (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

A couple of years ago, my two littlest kids (at the time) and I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the first book in the Captain No Beard series. When the opportunity presented itself recently to choose 4 books from Carole P. Roman’s assorted series, there wasn’t even a question regarding what to choose: more of the Captain No Beard adventures! These are definitely our favorite books by Carole P. Roman.

My kids (ages 4 and 7) have asked to read these books over and over again, and because they are so fun, I absolutely obliged them. 

101F72A8-55F5-4FC2-BDE8-19F05BE17616Book 2 is Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience, and in it Pepper, a new character, has trouble telling her left from right. This causes her much grief, to the point the other characters can barely stand to be around her from all the wailing (screeching, really, since she’s a bird). With a bit of guidance and the old “your left hand makes an L” trick, Pepper learns to tell the difference and more importantly, how to show herself grace when things aren’t as easy as she wishes they were. 

2488FAE4-17A3-4E2D-A2BC-63AEF211E23EBook 3 is Stuck in the Doldrums, and this book takes the crew to the beach. While there, Alexander, aka Captain No Beard, has no problem reminding everyone that he is the captain… he is too bossy! The entire crew gets frustrated with him, prompting him to stomp off on his own. When his ship is attacked, he needs his crew more than ever, and realizes that even though he’s the Captain, each member is important.

8C2EB50E-2327-4126-B636-8FC53EE99BEFBook 4 is Strangers on the High Seas, and we meet baby Cayla for the first time. Captain No Beard doesn’t want much to do with her, but when the Flying Dragon (his ship) is attacked, Cayla has just the weapon to save them all.

6BEF2B1B-050F-40F7-A62C-99AE38C53F61The final book we received is book 5, The Treasure of Snake Island. It starts out on a “red sky” morning, and Polly (formerly Pepper) tells the other pirates that this means the afternoon will most certainly be stormy. She knows this because she read about it in a book. Once the storm calms, the conversation turns to snakes, which First Mate Hallie tells the crew she really doesn’t like. Paying her no mind, Captain No Beard pulls out his map and discovers they are near Snake Island. The crew finds the island and docks the ship, then gets off and begins searching for the famous “treasure of Snake Island.” They find the X and start digging, and as the story ends back in Alexander’s bedroom (as all the Captain No Beard books do, because the crew is really his stuffed animals and the ship is his bed), he, Hallie, and Cayla find the treasure chest, and it is full of books!

My boys and I have loved reading these books together the past few weeks, and I’m so glad to have been able to add them to our home library.

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

 

Carole P. Roman writes lots of children’s books, not just Captain No Beard. Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are promoting a wide variety of them, so make sure to check out the other reviews!

Step into Reading (book review)

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL 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.

I wrote recently about Grasshopper and how he’s finally getting excited about reading. To go along with that, I was excited to be able to offer him The Boxcar Children Early Reader Set from Albert Whitman & Company.

116474E7-BDC3-49B3-B27D-355FE8B22D5A

For this review, we received four beautiful, case-laminate hardcover books: The Boxcar Children, Surprise Island, The Yellow House Mystery, and Mystery Ranch. Each one is based on the original Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Because Grasshopper is still not fully comfortable enough reading on his own yet, we read them together. To get him warmed up, I read the first page, but then he took over and flew through the books with flying colors.

The first book, The Boxcar Children, sets up the whole series. It tells the story of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden, and explains that they are orphans. The opening scene is of the four hungry children outside a bakery looking for some food and a place to spend the night. That ends up not working long term (or really even short term), so the children move on quickly. They find an abandoned train car, and while Henry works for Doctor Moore, Jessie and the others make the boxcar “home.” Doctor Moore learns more about Henry and his siblings, that they are orphans who are avoiding their grandfather (the only family they have) because they think he is mean. One day, Doctor Moore introduces the children to his friend, Mr. Henry. The kids think this is hilarious – Henry, Mr. Henry. As time goes on, Mr. Henry earns their trust and only then is revealed to actually be James Henry Alden – the children’s grandfather. The kids are thrilled that their grandfather is not mean after all, and they go to live with him. The book ends with them all at his house, and he’s brought their boxcar to his backyard for the children.

The other three books don’t seem to need to go in any particular order, so we read them in Grasshopper’s preferred order.

In Surprise Island, Grandfather gives the children a big surprise: their family owns an island, and they get to spend the summer there on their own! Grandfather shows them the barn where they live for the summer, then he gets on the boat and goes back home. The children are excited to have many adventures on the island! They end up finding many things from clams to shells to broken pottery, to… their cousin Joe. When Grandfather comes for them at the end of the summer, it’s decided that Joe will live them from now on.

We revisit Surprise Island in The Yellow House Mystery. This time, the children find an old yellow house and when they ask Grandfather about it, he tells them that his friend Bill used to love there, but he just up and disappeared one day. The children explore the house, where they find a note that alludes to the fact that Bill borrowed some money from Grandfather, lent it to someone else, and then couldn’t repay the funds. The note says where to find the repayment, so the kids go on an adventure to that location. When they get there, they find Bill! And the box where the money was supposed to be, and though many years have passed, the money is still there. Bill is excited to be able to repay Grandfather and move back into the yellow house.

Mystery Ranch finds the Aldens at Grandfather’s sister’s ranch in Centerville. Aunt Jane is sick and lonely, so Grandfather suggests the children visit her so they can cheer her up. On the train ride there, Benny meets a nice man who shows him their travels on a map. To their surprise, this Mystery Man gets off at the same stop as them. But then they don’t see him again. After many days of taking care of Aunt Jane and her ranch house, she reveals to them that some men have tried to buy her home from her. They also find a hut on the land that looks like it has been occupied recently. They take this information to the sheriff, who introduces them to Mr. Carter – the Mystery Man! It turns out that Aunt Jane’s ranch is also home to some rare rocks, and Mr. Carter is an expert in such stones and has been hired by Grandfather. He determines that Aunt Jane’s rocks are indeed valuable, so a team is brought in to excavate, which saves the ranch.

We have really loved having these books to read. They are perfect for the stage Grasshopper is at now, and I am thrilled that he is excited to read books! And I imagine that in 3-6 months, when he is ready for his first novel, we’ll be getting a Boxcar Children mystery from the library!

Blessings,

ladybug-signature-3 copy

 

 

 

Please be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew for more information and reviews on these charming books.