Wednesday, October 30, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity: Premium Account {Review}

If you can remember my review from last year, then you'll remember how much we LOVED VocabularySpellingCity!  This website is amazing for teaching spelling and vocabulary, all in one place.  Designed to be fun and easy, one could not ask for more!

VocabularySpellingCity helps you, as the teacher and parent, set up lessons that work for you and are manageable.  Through interactive gaming, students learn what vocabulary or a word list that you have set for them.  Best thing is that VocabularySpellingCity also helps you keep track of it all, all in the same place.  

All you have to do is:
  • log into a parent account, 
  • set up a classroom, 
  • add your students, 
  • set the lessons either by choosing premade lessons or creating your own
  •  and your children can get started.
VocabularySpellingCity makes it all super easy to do.  

With a premium membership you can choose:
  • special learning activities for each child's grade level
  • assign different lists to individual children
  • record test results and create accountability for lessons 
  • import lists
  • create flashcards to use online or print
  • teach definitions, antonyms, synonyms or parts of speech for the spelling or vocabulary lists chosen
There is so much available through VocabularySpellingCity to make learning easier and ensure children are thoroughly learning both spelling and vocabulary through their online lessons.  VocabularySpellingCity can also be used off the computer by printing out worksheets, flashcards and other resources for expanding lessons offline.

Through VocabularySpellingCity, you can find list for Science words, Social Studies, words that rhyme, abbreviations, word families, words with more than one meaning, the Dolch-sight word lists and even more.  You can also find Language Arts lessons on nouns, parts of speech, compound words, figurative language and more.  Extra helps for handwriting and spelling are also available.  

In the Premium account you can add up to 5 students and customize each account to the child's grade level.  I personally chose not to set grade levels for my children but I did set lessons for each by assigning them to each student as they fit to my student.  I allow my children to work on word and vocabulary lists that fit what we are learning.  I simply input what words we are learning for the week and VocabularySpellingCity does the rest for me.  My child can then log-in and complete their work as assigned for each week.  It doesn't matter what time they go on to use the program.  It will be there when they are able to get to it.

Now I've said this website is super easy to use throughout this review but if for some reason you find yourself lost or stuck, there are lots of videos to explain just what you need to know.  There are even videos for the student lessons at VocabularySpellingCity.  Everything you need is right there at your fingertips.

You can use VocabularySpellingCity for free but you won't get the extra writing and vocubulary options that are available with the Premium membership.  However, you still get plenty of activities and it's a great way to try out the program, which can be used with all students in grades K-12.

Premium account game extras include:
  • Vocabulary Test Me 
  • Flashcards, which I mentioned several times above
  • LetterFall
  • Sentence and Paragraph Writing Practice
  • Match It for Sentences and Definitions
  • Which Word? for Sentences and Definitions
  • Word-O-Rama
  • Crossword
  • and Parts Of Speech
Each of these extra games allows more detailed instruction and more fun for the lessons being taught.  

You can purchase a premium family account with VocabularySpellingCity for $29.99 a year.  This allows you access for up to 5 students for a full year.  Access for more than 5 students can also be purchased.

To read more reviews of VocabularySpellingCity, please click the banner below!


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Monday, October 28, 2013


I'm at a point that I need to refocus and find redirection in my life.  It excites me that the crew year will soon be coming to an end and though I'm anxious to start the next one, if I'm welcomed back in return, I will be happy to have a little break.  Please, someone remind me of this after two weeks of no reviews, as I'm sure I'll be chomping at the bit to work again!

I simply need a break.  I am wanting to sit down and plan some things to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas next month.  I want to spend that time enjoying my children.  Life is short, time is short and days are passing quickly.  I want to enjoy my children and create memories before these days have passed.

And so I'm making big plans for my time off.  Plans to work more in the house.  Plans to play more with my kids.

I must refocus my life, adjust to some new findings and allow myself to find the direction I need to be traveling in.  I will allow God to guide me where He wishes me to be.  Until then, I'll be listening and waiting for the answers I'm seeking and enjoying what the days have brought to me.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Unexpected {Epilepsy Awareness}

A dear friend of ours passed away on Sunday and it just hits me how quickly things can change.  Her death was unexpected and she left behind a Mother who depends on her daily and a new husband with kids-in-love.  None of which could have imagined they would bury her today.

I'm in shock.  My heart hurts.  She was an Aunt to my own children-in-love, a sister to the man I love.

God doesn't promise us when our lives will end.  God doesn't promise us tomorrow.  We are given only today, only these moments together until we are called home to the other side of things.

And it strikes me again, how quickly my babies could be gone from me.  How easily these seizures could cause their lives to be gone from here.  They are fragile and seizures are tough.  Their tiny bodies can only handle so much.

I pray for their lives every day.  I pray they will each see another day, here on Earth, here with me.  It's selfish of me to want them to remain here with me but time is so short.

I want memories and I want snuggles, love from them, shared with them.  I want to embrace them every day.  I want to give them a lifetime of love, that only Mommy can give to them.

Today we have control of the Epilepsy.  Tomorrow, we may not.  I never know when it will hit them, when it will tease me with the risk of their lives being gone.  I never know when and I live in limbo as I wait for it to happen.

I cannot relate with the loss that Mother felt today as she said Goodbye one final time to the baby she spent her life loving. I pray daily I never feel her same pain.  I surely would not handle it nearly so well.

So with a pain-filled heart, I find myself loving my babies a little more, sneaking nighttime peaks when I'm able to ensure they are happy and safe and yes, still breathing.  I rejoice in the morning when they come to say "I love you, Momma".  And I cherish every moment, every breath, every day that we have together here on Earth before we must part unexpectedly to that next place.

Barbour Publishing: Diary of a Real Payne: True Story {Review}

From Barbour Publishing, I bring to you Diary of a Real Payne: True Story.  (Read that with a deep, theatrical voice.)  This book was so much fun to read.  Written for children ages 8-12, this is one book your readers will surely enjoy!

A few things we like about Diary of a Real Pain:

  1. The star of the book is Emma Jean Payne.  As most of you know, Emma's a name favorite around here and the short version of my own sweet Emmalee.  We actively seek out books using her name for her to read, so she was pretty excited to receive this one.
  2. Emma Jean, otherwise known as EJ, lives in a super small town - the town of Spooner in Wisconsin.  Population 2500.  The town I grew up in, where my own Emma was born and lived the first years of her life, has a population of 2465.  Georgetown, South Carolina, where we currently live, has a slightly bigger population of 9092.  Still a small town in my book.
  3. EJ plays an angel in the Christmas pageant somewhat reluctantly, as did my Emma, joyously when she was a little girl.  Their age is a bit different but my Emma enjoyed this shared fact.
  4. EJ has a Cockapoo Mix dog named Matthew Cuthbert T-Rex Payne and Poodles are a favorite of my Emma's.  Emma's dog is a black lab named Hunter.
  5. Emma LOVES to journal in her diary and so does EJ.  Reading EJ's journal has actually helped Emma fine tune hers and helped her to create better entries when writing.  She is always jotting things down and now she's doing so even more, including clippings, drawings and so many extra's that she never did before.
As you can tell, Emma and EJ have a lot in common and that makes a great book in the eyes of my 10 year old.  Emma really enjoyed reading the Diary of a Real Payne: True Story by Annie Tipton.  She enjoyed the illustrations throughout the book.  She enjoyed the diary sections which made her feel like she was really reading EJ's diary.  She felt like she had a friend in EJ, as the story unfolded.

Emma looks forward to the second story in this series which is set to release in March 2014.  This book is written from a Christian perspective so even though EJ's antics may not always be the best, they have the best interests at heart to guide my children in the lessons they learn through Emma Jean.  That is a wonderful, blessing in itself.

This is a book Emma cherishes and will one day pass on to her little sister to cherish as well.  She's already read some of it to her and shown her the pictures drawn within.  The illustrations have peeked Emma's art interest as well.  She's considering drawing for children's literature at this point but ever the artist, she is always changing her mind.

Want to know more about what happens in Diary of a Real Payne: True Story?  Well, you will just have to read it for yourself.  Diary of a Real Payne: True Story is very reasonably priced at $5.99.  Get your copy today!

To read more reviews of Diary of a Real Payne: True Story from Barbour Publishing, please click on the banner below!


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Monday, October 21, 2013

God's World News: God's Big World {Review}

Have you been looking for a way to teach World News in your home?  How about a way to teach Current Events?  Would you like a Christian perspective to help teach these subjects?  God's World News is a great source for all of these things.

World News Group, the company that publishes God's World News, has been around for over thirty years.  This wonderful company provides the news from a Christian perspective for children and adults of all ages.  For our review, we were given a free subscription to God's Big World, a magazine for children who are in grade Pre-K to Kindergarten.  

I chose this subscription particularly for Laycie, who I knew would enjoy having something just for her coming in the mail.  I also knew she would enjoy learning about Earth's creatures, how the world works, simple current events and much more through this magazine.  Not only was Laycie able to learn so much, her brother and sister, who are ages 10 and 12, also enjoyed looking through the magazines and reading them to her.  This subscription is perfect in so many ways for our entire family!

The magazines are short.  The months that I received for review contained around 25 pages each, give or take.  The paper is like newspaper print but full of color.  The images are crisp and clear and the writing is simple yet jam-packed with so much information!  Each time the kids would read through, it seems they would learn something new which is very important to me and something I look for in every magazine subscription we use.

Each article is fairly short and not overwhelming for Laycie at age 5.  Topics vary throughout the magazine and coincide with events and seasons for the time of year.  Since God's Big World shares articles covering the entire world, these topics provided lessons for other countries that we may have otherwise missed.

We were sent a large map to go along with our magazines.  This map is titled Map-It in the News and allows Laycie and the big kids to follow along and "see" where things are happening in the world.  We can write on the map or pin it, or put on stickers we obtain as it is ours to keep to help support the stories we read in the magazine.  I thought this was a great bonus to the lessons provide and if you can have the map laminated, it would probably be a wonderful tool for years to come.

We were also given access to the World News website online with our subscription.  Here you can view back issues of the magazine, as well as current events happening in the world daily.  Provided online is also a digital version of the print Map-It in the News map.

There are also lessons online that can be completed.  The lessons include a story, a comparison of the bible into life and a quiz to see what the child has learned.  This is a great way to further lessons learned from the actual print magazine.

There are also biographies provided which go along with sections from the magazines and help to expand those lessons.  The biographies discuss important persons from around the world.  There are quizzes listed at the end of these online articles as well.

You can also download PDF files of the magazines to view straight on the computer.  The PDF copies contain the same information as the print copies and is a great digital way to keep up with the lessons.  You can use these if something happens to your print copy or if you have another child who'd like to read the stories but can't because a sibling doesn't want to share.  I found this to be a great extra.

God's World News and God's Big World has been such a blessing for us!  We have really enjoyed reading the articles.  I loved the photos shared in the article on the Civil War in the August edition and both Emma and Laycie enjoyed the one about Wild Ponies in the September edition of our subscription.  There were so many more that we also enjoyed looking at, reading together and sharing in what we read and learned.

I allowed each of the kids to take one magazine to look over, then switch.  I let them read at will and peruse the images and articles.  I allowed them to discuss them with one another.  We also looked over and discussed them together.  Even though these articles are relatively short, they pack a lot of learning into each section and page which provided so much knowledge for my children.  We really enjoyed that.

You can order a subscription to God's World News by visiting their website.  God's Big World is written for young children in grade Pre-K through Kindergarten.  It is available for $28 for a Home subscription but can also be ordered for a group or a school.  This includes 10 full-color issues for the year, a weekly email and access to the children's website.

To read more reviews of God's World News, please click the banner below!!


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Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Bit of Fall Pin-spiration!

Those who know me know that I am a Pinterest addict!  I have so many links pinned there: things to do, make and enjoy, from seasonal things to homeschooling.  It's one of my favorite places to visit for inspiration.
So for this blog post, I am going to share some Fall Pin-spiration!  

We are just finishing up the Halloween decorations and at the beginning of November we will be switching it all over to Fall.  We turn our Jack-A-Lanterns around to become pumpkins and use other cute things for our decor but we enjoy using other ideas to create fun decor as well - we being me, my Mom and the kids!

First thing I love is this wonderful tablescape created from clear Dollar Store glasses from Naptime Decorator!

(image copyrighted to Naptime Decorator)

These glasses were simple with clean lines and Naptime Decorator simply painted on the letters using a stencil with acrylic.  Hand-painting is one of my FAVORITE past-times so this craft fits in perfectly for me!  So adorable too!  Visit her post A Time for Thanks to learn more!

I have one of these glass pumpkins and see tons every Fall but I'm not thrilled with that clear glass look, so I've been looking for ideas to make them work better for me!  This Fall Decor, Craft Paper Decoupage Glass Pumpkin Tutorial post from Dream A Little Bigger shares how to spruce it up.

(image copyrighted to Dream a Little Bigger)

In this tutorial, Allison shares how to decoupage the pumpkin and uses Craft paper in her pumpkin but you could use those thin Fall leaves from the Dollar Store to decoupage inside as well or even tissue paper.  I also thought simply using craft paint to paint inside or white glue mixed with paint to coat the inside for extra staying power.

I think this Easy No-Sew Pumpkin Craft from Better In Bulk is the cutest thing!  It's simple to make too.  The perfect project for me!

(image copyrighted by Better in Bulk)

You simply take some fabric and wrap it around a toilet paper roll with paper still on and put a stick in the middle!  You can add a bow or not.  But isn't it the cutest thing, y'all!  So fun to store that extra toilet paper creatively for the Holidays!

Some other adorable craft ideas, I love for Fall are laminating leaves to use as placemats, painting pumpkins, and using glass jars to hold nuts or pinecones for decoration.  There are many ways to bring Fall into your home.  Simply doing a search on Pinterest can bring forth so many wonderful, easy ideas to use for decorating your home and is one of my favorite things to do for inspiration.

What do you enjoy looking up on Pinterest?


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ChessHouse: Starter Chess Learning Kit {Review}

As soon as I saw on our vendor list, I knew this was going to be a great review for my family.  I personally love to play Chess and my kids follow right along behind me.  What could be more perfect for us than to be able to test out this product!

I wasn't sure what we would receive, of course, until the Vendor form went up.  I was so excited to find the product we would be receiving was the Starter Chess Learning Kit.  This kit has everything one needs to begin learning about Chess. 

It didn't take long before our Starter Chess Learning Kit arrived.  I immediately handed it over to my 12 year old son, because I knew this was going to be the review for him!  He opened the box cautiously as he does everything and wasn't at all sure what was inside.  As soon as he unzipped the case though, he knew just what he had gotten and boy, was he thrilled!

We received a tan/green camo case.  It's soft and comes with a strap or handles for carrying.  The color was perfect for Winston, who really loves hunting and first thought it was a case for his hunting gun.  Inside the case are several zippered pouches, each containing the Chess pieces to use for play and instruction.  They are black and ivory like most Chess sets.  There is also a vinyl, roll-up Chess board.  Winston LOVED that it rolls up so he can carry it with him to his Grandmother's or his Aunt's house, or wherever he'd like to play.

Of course, the set also comes with an instruction booklet and extra pouches are built into the case for holding the instructions.  There is also room to hold lesson DVD's which our set came with.  We received a DVD copy of Elliott's Chess School Pawn Level 1 with our kit.

Elliott's Chess School Pawn Level 1 is amazing.  The kids really enjoyed the simple but thorough instruction.  Even Grandma said she learned from this easy to learn and listen video.  It provides instruction on each of the Chess pieces, how to avoid mistakes and prepare for success in playing Chess, along with important game strategies.

Pawn Level is the beginner level of video instruction but there are additional levels available for purchase for more advanced players.  Because the kids kids loved this instructional video so much, we will be purchasing more of these DVD's to further our Chess education.  The video series is appropriate for ages 4 and up.  It is 49 minutes in length.

I cannot express how much we love or our Starter Chess Learning Kit!  It's been one of the biggest hits from our review items this year.  All the kids have enjoyed it from my oldest to my youngest and as I mentioned above, even Grandma!  It's an educational tool that everyone can enjoy!

Everyone learned so much just by watching the lesson DVD and each additional time they watched, they were able to learn even more.  The DVD has truly taught Winston so much about this game that he so truly loves to play.  He's even competition for me now!  It's wonderful.

You can purchase your own Starter Chess Learning Kit set for $39.95 plus shipping.  Additional instructional DVD's are also available.  The Starter Chess Learning Kit comes with the Full portable Chess board with pieces and a DVD copy of Elliott's Chess School Pawn Level 1.  

To read more reviews for, please click the banner below!


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Thursday, October 10, 2013

YWAM Publishing - George Washington: True Patriot and Unit Study {Review}

George Washington is the first President of the United States and one of the most well-known names of U.S. History.  He is a favorite in our household and a person that we each truly look up to.  So when I heard that YWAM Publishing was offering to allow the Schoolhouse Review Crew review their book George Washington: True Patriot from the Heroes of History series, I was excited!

For this review, I received a PDF download of George Washington: True Patriot, the book.  This book is 224 pages in length and includes 19 chapters each focusing a different aspect of Washington's life.  Washington was destined for Great Purpose and George Washington: True Patriot shares his story with us.

We always enjoy reading books on George Washington.  Washington traveled here, to Georgetown, SC in 1791 and visited several nearby places.  He was greeted here by cannon fire and uniformed Infantry before moving on to his next destination.

Living in Georgetown, in close proximity to Charleston, SC, we are able to personally visit the places where President Washington walked, attended balls, had a meal and even lodged for the night.  Washington saved a tree on a nearby plantation that we have seen first hand and he left behind a legacy that myself and my children can look up to.  George Washington: True Patriot only proved that to us even more.

To go along with the book, we were given a PDF download of the George Washington: Unit Study Curriculum Guide in two parts.  Part one is 64 pages long and begins with sharing a photo of George Washington himself with birth and death date below.  The entire PDF is in black and white, making printing more efficient.

There are 9 sections and 2 appendices in the George Washington: Unit Study and it was specifically created to go along with the book, George Washington: True Patriot.  The unit study reinforces creative writing, critiquing, History and Geography concepts and so much more.  The entire guide is set up to allow the teacher to pick and choose activities that will work with their student's learning style and abilities.  The unit study can also be easily adapted for group studies which worked great for us!

The guide begins by teaching the student about Key Quotes speaking of Washington's life and related to the United States personally.  There are suggestions for setting up a display corner to focus on certain aspects about George Washington which will be covered during the reading and study of the book.  Chapter questions are provided to further expand on the lessons and to check comprehension of the readings during this study.

The 4th Chapter is called Explorations and provides the meat of the study in suggesting Essay topics, audio, visual and art projects which bring the study to life.  These explorations show what the reader is learning and bring Washington to life.  Combined with Chapter 5's community links, this really challenges the student to expand lessons past the book itself.

In the section labeled Social Studies, the student will focus on Vocabulary, Geography, time line events and similar lessons.  Connecting into the lessons in Exploration, these build a thorough lesson for the story of George Washington's life.  They can be expanded further through the suggestions in the Related Themes section of the unit study.  There is also a section on resources that shares other books to read and movies to watch which help to expand lessons even farther.

Part two of the George Washington: Unit Study provides a fact sheet on George Washington, complete with photograph.  It also includes a map of the Eastern United States and a map of Virginia and West Virginia to use along with the study.  A timeline finishes up this 4 page section of the Unit Study.

My family and I greatly enjoyed reading about President Washington's life and his belief in the United States, as well as his belief in God.  His Biblical foundation was apparent in every section of the story and showed the values that he wished for all Americans.  It was nice to read of the man who began the country and projected his faith onto the new nations beginnings.

We learned so much from George Washington: True Patriot and the accompanying George Washington: Unit Study and you will too!  Purchase your copy of George Washington: True Patriot for $6.99 in either print or e-book form.  The George Washington: Unit Study is also available for purchase for $7.49 and is the perfect complement to the book creating a full study of the First American President and this True Patriot, George Washington.

To read more reviews of George Washington: True Patriot and other YWAM Publishing titles, please click the banner below!


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Saving Money at Home

Let's face it, times are tight.  There isn't a lot of money to be spent for anyone.  Most families are having to cut corners just to make ends me and ours is one of them.

A few years back, I began to make our own laundry detergent.  I found a recipe online and gave it a shot.  I figured what did I have to lose?  Guess what!  It works great and I am still using that same detergent recipe.  I prefer liquid to dry.

After the detergent, I began using sponges in watered down fabric softener in the dryer instead of dryer sheets.  I get microfiber sponges and these have held up well for over a year now.  I squeeze out the dryer liquid or leave a little more if it's something like towels I'm drying, toss it into the washer and let it do it's job.  It works great!

I use vinegar and baking soda in my sink drains to keep them clean and fresh.  This also helps dislodge any clogs that may be building.  The smell goes away quickly, leaving a smooth flowing sink in the process.

I also use vinegar and baking soda with lots of water in my carpet cleaner.  The two help to clean and condition my carpet, taking out the pet urine scent along with it.  Nothing else has worked as well to kill that doggie pee odor as this combination has.

I use vinegar to kill weeds outside of our house.  This keeps us from having to use the heavy duty chemicals and keeps the weeds from taking over.  It's a safe alternative for our pets and kids.

Vinegar also goes into my washer to soften clothing and towels.  It helps to get the musty scent out of damp materials.  It makes a great additive to the wash.

What are some things you do around the home to save money?  Share your ideas in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Zondervan: Homeschool Mom's Bible {Review}

A few months ago, I began looking for a Bible to use for a daily devotional and for daily Bible study for my own personal use.  I came across the Homeschool Mom's Bible from Zondervan.  This Bible was created just for Homeschooling Mom's like me!

After finding the Homeschool Mom's Bible, the next biggest decision I had to make was choosing between versions.  I've always been a HUGE King James Bible fan but I've been looking for something that was written in today's language so that I could better understand it while studying and reading the Word at home.  I felt like the New International Version would be the best fit for that and I was so right.

At this point, the only thing I had left to do was purchase my own personal copy of the Homeschool Mom's Bible but how when money is always so tight?  The Lord above must have really wanted me to have it because I immediately noticed that this very Bible was on the Schoolhouse Review Crew list as an upcoming review.  Another prayer answered!

I was able to receive the exact book I wanted thanks to the Schoolhouse Crew's review team and let me tell you, this book is more beautiful than I ever expected!  It was exactly what I needed.  There are 365 devotionals inside, one for each and every day of the year.  They are spread out throughout the chapters of the bible and each one touches on a different part of the heart of a Homeschooling Mom.

Each of the devotions features a Biblical verse as part of the focus of the inspirational message.  The next part of the devotion shares thoughts in relation to the verse's focus.  Lastly, a prayer is provided for each day, making it easy to pray over the devotion's direction for the day.

The Bible itself features a full text in NIV.  It begins with a list of the Books of the Bible, includes a few introductions for the Bible itself, as well as a Biblical Preface before jumping into the Word.  The size of the writing is a bit smaller than I would have liked but it is printed in a beautiful font.

In the back of the Bible there is a Table of Weights and Measures which helps to better understand the size and proportions of things mentioned throughout the Bible.  A Topical Index is also included in the back of the book as well as several pages for notes.

The copy of the Homeschool Mom's Bible that I received is hardback with a slip cover matching the book's own cover.  It is a glossy print, making the Bible feel smooth in texture.  The pages inside are the typical thin but sturdy pages found in most Bibles.  The Bible is smaller so it could fit into a purse or bag, but thick since it does contain the full text of the Bible.  I really like the size and shape.  It was one of the things I was drawn to in choosing this particular Bible, along with the easy to understand text.

The Homeschool Mom's Bible NIV is available in stores for $34.99.  It is well worth it's price.  There are many other versions available in hardback, leather and also as an e-book download from Zondervan.  Please click the banner below to read more reviews of the Homeschool Mom's Bible.


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Monday, October 7, 2013

Fundanoodle {Review}

If you are looking for a fun and unique way to introduce handwriting skills to your child, Fundanoodle is it!  Fundanoodle is a brand new series of handwriting tablets and tools, developed by Carolina Pad.  These tablets make handwriting fun for young children.

Fundanoodle features Max the Monkey and Alphie the Explorer.  Max and Alphie take your child through a series of worksheets to complete in order to build handwriting skills.  They are great encouragement as your child learns to write using the Fundanoodle workbooks.

For this review, we were given a Fundanoodle Magnetic Dry Erase Lettering Practice Board that is designed to be used with all ages and with most of the available Fundanoodle products.  The dry erase board is of average size and has a front and back side.  The back side of the board is an unlined area for drawing and writing practice.  The front side of the board has a series of three sets of blocks: one plain, one with green start and red stop lines with a dotted line in the middle, and one set with only dotted lines in the middle.  Under these blocks are two sets of lines with green start and red stop lines on the top and bottom.  Underneath those lines are two more sets of lines in simple black.

Fundanoodle uses green lines to represent where a child should start their letter writing and red lines to show them where to stop their writing.  This also represents green for the top line and red for the bottom line.  The colors give the student a visual to follow and seeing this visual allows them to memorize where they should stop start when writing.

Since this dry erase board is magnetic, this allows the child extra space for fun magnetic practice.  The child can use letter magnets to look at as they practice writing their letters.  Word magnets could be used with the lined section to create sentences as well.  It's just a fun addition for the board to have a dual magnetic purpose and we really appreciate that little extra fun element.

For this review, we were also sent Fundanoodle's I Can Write Upper Case! from their Comprehensive Handwriting Development Program.  The cover of this neat writing tablet features an adorable cat and dog which immediately appealed to Laycie.  The cat states "Let's learn to write upper case!"  This was perfect for Laycie who has been working on writing with her therapists using another top handwriting program.  Her Fundanoodle I Can Write Upper Case! writing tablet went well with her lessons for practice at home and is more affordable than the competing program that she uses during her therapy so it's something I am looking to add into our homeschooling to build those skills at home.

I Can Write Upper Case! was created to be used with students ages 4-5 which of course would depend upon your child's personal skills.  The suggested grade level is Pre K to K.

The writing tablet itself comes with a spiral binding, perfect for laying flat.  The cover is cardboard, allowing for a sturdier writing surfaces for practicing within the writing tablet pages.  The writing tablet is full color and intriguing for children with it's eye catching colors.

The first page of the writing tablet introduces you and your child to Max and Alphie, whom you see frequently throughout the writing tablet pages.  The second page is a section sharing Tips for Parents, which focuses on proper handwriting technique and posture for handwriting.  There are also alternative learning positions that are suggested here.

All of the pages within the writing tablet are only printed on the front.  This keeps the students focus on the page they are working on instead of drawn to previous pages completed or upcoming pages to learn.  I didn't really like the wasted paper but I do understand the reason it is done.  The backs of the pages did make great pages for drawing and practicing letter skills though and we put them to good use doing so.

The third page of the writing tablet is the instruction page.  Here you will find instructions explaining the green go lines and the red stop lines for writing.  You will also find Max's personal terms for each line type which your child will be using for learning their writing skills.

At the back of the tablet are reward stickers.  As your child completes each page, they will need to find the correct sticker to place on the page.  Each page has a different sticker related to the page itself.  This is a great way to encourage fun learning skills and to encourage completion of their work.

The writing tablet begins with focusing one by one on each letter of the Alphabet.  The child will fill in the letter boxes with each letter, then write the letter on lines at the bottom of the page.  This can all be completed in each lesson or you could simply break it down.  A child could work on one set of boxes for three days in a week, writing the letter being learned, then come back later on to review by writing the letter on the lines.  There are many ways this can be worked on to best benefit the child's learning.

We personally chose to work on writing a little at a time.  Writing is a skill that Laycie has just become ready to do, so for her, writing lots of repeating letters is not fun.  Instead, we used the above method of working on one row of letters at a time and coming back another day in the week to complete another row of letters.  This was easier for Laycie and when she was done, she was able to place her sticker onto her writing page, knowing she had completed her work.

In the back of the writing tablet are more writing pages for practice.  We haven't gotten around to using those yet but they will be used once Laycie completes her main letter pages.  They will be a fun way to review all the letters at once for her.  We have reviewed the full letter page chart to compare the letter forms, discuss the letters themselves as she is still learning to recognize several letters at this stage of her learning.

We really like the Fundanoodle program and as I stated above, I plan to purchase more of these products to learn at home with.  They are very affordable.  I Can Write Upper Case! is a 12x9 tablet and can be purchased for $5.99 plus shipping from Carolina Pad.  The Magnetic Dry Erase Lettering Practice Board can be purchased for $9.99 plus shipping.

There are many other writing products to choose from that are just as reasonably priced.  To see more reviews of Fundanoodle, please click the banner below.


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Friday, October 4, 2013

Settling In

It has truly been a long year for us.  I can hardly believe October is already here.  It just seems like the entire year has flown by.

Next month is the last month of reviews for the TOS Crew year.  It's passed by so quickly but the break will be nice.  I plan to work on my blog, create some posting ideas and prep for next years work as I hopefully will be returning to the Crew in January (we will see!).

This week, I have had no scheduled reviews for the Crew, so it's allowed me a nice little break to get some much needed mind-clearage and also to focus on my house.  The house and the mind are in dire need of an overhaul.  It's a slow process but the house is becoming more organized every day.  After four years of living here, I have to admit that it's about time!

I looked at Winston just yesterday and we discussed that we've never stayed in one place so long.  When we lived with his father, we constantly moved.  There was no security and no reason to unpack because we knew before long we would be moving again.  I can't blame his Dad, as that's how he was raised but I wasn't.  My parents lived in the same home for 26 years of my life.  Moving was not something I knew how to do.  Neither was organizing, even though we'd lived in the same home so long.

Organizing has been something that I've recently been learning.  Sure my Mom's house was neat and kept clean but it was all done by her.  I never learned those important skills that I needed to because, well, I knew Mom would do it for me!  And she has, even in my own home, she's always come in and put things where she felt they belonged, which really didn't work for me!

So now, here I am at age 34, learning to organize and clean my way.  Since I have never been good at this, my kids are also learning along with me and they are greatly enjoying the process of having a home that's organized.  They are also enjoying having a home that is permanent, that we don't have to keep packed up and that we can enjoy our life and our time in.

My son tells me he's never seen our home so organized and that it makes him happy.  That makes me happy.  These kids are my world!  I could never imagine my life without them in it and my heart is full having them journeying through it all along with me.  I could not be more thankful.

This has been a hard year but it's coming to an end joyfully, full of life and love and living.  I would not have that any other way.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! {Review and Giveaway}

By: Kathleen Long Bostrom
CandyCane Press

Have you been looking for a cute way to teach your child about church etiquette?  Perhaps you know a child who hasn't been to church and needs a guided lesson before attending.  Or maybe you know a child that enjoys sharing about church with others.

In Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! children learn about the process of attending a church service from beginning to end.  Ryan, a cute little boy with brown hair, LOVES to attend church service.  Rufus is Ryan's favorite stuffed Monkey, only to Ryan, Rufus is so much more!  Ryan cannot wait to share Church with Rufus as he takes him along for the day.

Ryan and Rufus sing, read the bible, and pray together.  They also share in snack time, one of Ryan's favorite parts of Church.  Ryan even shares a cookie with Rufus!  At the end of the day, Ryan can hardly wait for next Sunday when he gets to do it all over again!

This adorable book is written to help prepare children for Church service.  It would make a great gift for parents who have just adopted a child, grandparents who are taking their grandchildren to church for the first time, and children that love to carry their stuff loved ones, just like Ryan!

I really enjoyed this book and sharing it with my children.  My older children are a little too old for the book but my sweet 5 year old is just the right age.  She loved seeing Rufus and watching and listening as Ryan shared his day with Rufus and with us!

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is available from Ideals Books for $7.99 and is well worth the price!  It is a board book, perfect for those little hands with sturdy pages to use as a carry along.  The illustrations are colorful and cute, sure to keep little ones entertained as you read.

You can win your own copy of Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! by simply entering the Rafflecopter Giveaway below!

*Disclaimer - I received a free copy of Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! from Ideals Books and Flyby Promotions, as well as a free copy to giveaway on my blog in exchange for my honest opinion shared within this blog post.  I am including this disclaimer in accordance with FTC regulations and guidelines.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

God's Paths

Have you ever thought about how the things in your past affect your day to day now?  As a little girl, I remember playing like most children.  I would play dolls and I would teach them.  I also loved to sing.

As an adult, I often think back to those childhood days and how those times of play have truly prepared me for my future, for today.  As a child, I never imagined that I would be teaching my children at home.  I always thought my career would be in education and that I'd also be singing somewhere outside of my home and church.

I remember sitting down with my dolls and with my imaginary pals, pretending I had an entire classroom in front of me.  I remember passing out pencils and worksheets, having those students complete tests and reviews of schoolwork.  I remember holding music classes with those students, singing and teaching those dolls to sing, too.

Now I have real students in my children and I know that all of my play was provided by God to prepare me for His will.  I am equipped by the Lord for this job that He's provided me.  This is God's plan come to life.

As a parent, I always allow my children plenty of time to play and use their imagination.  I do not direct their playtime.  I know from my own experiences that the things they learn and the actions they take during their play is God's way of preparing them for a future that I cannot personally understand.  One day they will each do great things but these things will be as God has chosen for them in order to glorify Him.  Only He can lead them on this path that He wishes for them to follow, just as He has done for me before them.

What ways has God prepared you for your own journey in life?  What ways does He prepare your children?


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