Saturday, July 15, 2017

Baby Bash Giveaway

So my baby days are behind me, but that doesn't mean that I don't love getting my baby fix every chance I can get.

 I’m teaming up with some of my favorite baby brands to bring you The Baby Bash Giveaway.

One lucky winner will win a $100 Target gift card plus products from Boogie Wipes, Baby Bjorn, Dreft, Kandoo and Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus. Giveaway is open to US and Canada residents and ends at 11:59 pm on Friday, August 4, 2017. Complete the form below to enter. Click here if you are not able to see the form. Good luck!


From Baby Showers to Sprinkles, Sip & See Showers and even Gender Reveal Parties, Boogie Wipes is helping you host and attend every baby party you can think of. Use the links below to learn more about how to host each type of party, a unique way to learn the gender of your baby, the perfect gifts for every event, and the one thing you really need at a Sip & See (besides a baby).





Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Lap-Pak Review - Ben Franklin

Earlier this year I shared the Ancient Greece History Through the Ages Project Passport World History Study. Madison got into it, and once I got past my initial overwhelmed moments trying to get it set up, I did too. So when we were given the option to visit this curriculum again, we took it. We have been supplementing our history with a hands-on Lap-Pak about Benjamin Franklin from Home School in the Woods.

Home School in the Woods

Every time I first receive the curriculum from this company, I have to remind myself to breathe. It's a digital download or a CD. I like to buy my curriculum printed, so digital products are already something that makes me nervous. We use the download, and it has a TON of files. Extractions and explicit instructions and hidden folders make me nervous that I'm going to screw something up. But since I'm always encouraging Madison to take things she finds overwhelming step by step, I did the same to myself, and honestly, it isn't as complicated as it seems. The directions are clear.

Hands-on History K-2 Lap-Pak: Benjamin Franklin

NOTE FOR SUCCESS: You, as the teacher, need to treat this as true prep, give yourself some uninterrupted time, and do this all well in advance. You also need a printer at the ready, white and colored printer paper, and white and colored card stock. It will take a while to set up, but it is worth it.

The girls have gotten very into early American history - specifically the colonies, Revolution, and early years of the United States. Ben Franklin is obviously pretty involved in that, so both girls got in on the act this time.

Hands-on History K-2 Lap-Pak: Benjamin Franklin

This really takes you through all the many aspects of the life of Ben Franklin and this time in history. From the "Leather Apron" trades (wig maker, wax chandler, etc.), to Ben Franklin, the printer (and great information about early printing), to Poor Richard's Almanac, to Ben Franklin, the inventor, to Ben Franklin, the civil servant (libraries, postal, etc), to the well known stories (kite flying, anyone?), it's all in there, and it's perfect for K-2 students.

As the teacher, be prepared to help a lot. My girls absorbed the information hungrily and quickly, but they got very frustrated by having to arrange everything "just so", and there was a lot of cutting, pasting, and coloring. The pop up pieces were great, but they caused a few sets of tears from my five year old when it wasn't working quite right.

But overall, once we got past all the heavy lifting, the information is great and the girls both really liked getting to know one of their favorite historical figures. And I started brainstorming some great ways to use this in our co-op next year!

Home School in the Woods offers many visual and hands-on history lines. Other products that are available include products from the Time Traveler's American History Studies and Activity-Paks line, as well as the Timeline Trio.  Since the group is reviewing such a diverse set of materials, I highly suggest you check out the other reviews as well as Home School in the Woods to see the variety of hands-on projects they offer.

Hands-on History {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Homeschool in the Woods also offers a new A La Carte option, so  if you're wanting to try them out, or just do a project or two from their different studies to go along with another curriculum, you now have that option.  They are hoping to add more projects in the future, but in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal, you can currently download this project for FREE with the code alacarte.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Perfect Fit is Out There!

I've finally found our "perfect fit" math curriculum (for now, anyway), but I'm struggling with finding the same for language arts. So when I got the opportunity to review one, I jumped all over it. I mean, history tells me it probably won't be a perfect fit, but my optimism wonders if it just might be "the one". I have heard many good things about Hewitt Homeschooling‘s Lightning Lit series, so when the chance came to review a set, I chose Grade 1 Lightning Lit Set.

Hewitt Homeschooling

I swear, I approach our personal hard to find personal curriculum like a blind date. I'm totally optimistic that this might be the last time I ever have to do this, and I'm totally willing to put myself out there, no matter how hard I need to try.

Madison is incredibly tricky when it comes to language arts. Her memory, both aural and visual, is phenomenal, and her early reading was almost entirely focused on sight words. Phonics bugs her. Basic LA programs are too easy for her, but when I push her up a level, she struggles. She's not high or low. She's weird. (And, ironically, because of this, perfect for homeschooling). But finding a curriculum is like searching for an needle in a haystack.

 Lightning Literature & Composition Pack
Grade 1

Lightening Lit is a complete LA program, but NOT a phonics program, and that actually worked well for us. It uses books - real books - not "easy readers" or passages in an anthology. Students read a book and are expected to work through comprehension and writing activities from it. It doesn't teach a student how to decode. It teaches them how to read. 

A point to note: I'm not confident I chose the right grade level for this point in the year. I was nervous to use second grade, but honestly, for this program, first grade was a bit too easy.

Even with this grade level struggle, we used it to solidify what she knew. Yes, it was reinforcement, but that's not a bad thing. Luckily, all the books required - classics and generally well respected children's lit - we either owned or were easily able to get from the library. In addition, students study one Aesop’s fable a week.

If you aren’t using a specific vocabulary program, Grade 1 Lightning Lit offers dictionary pages in the back of the student workbook.  Each week, students should include five to ten new words that they learned during the week through the program. The Grade One curriculum has 36 weeks of lessons. There are assignments for four days a week.  Friday is a day to catch up, take off, or do other activities to extend out the program.  (There are suggestions for extension activities for each week in the teacher’s manual.) We generally school three-four days a week, so this worked for us.

Can a first grader truly handle this much reading?

Yes. More specifically, yes, because it's not about the decoding. It doesn't matter if they need help.

Shared reading, as well as parent reading, are permissible in this curriculum. Generally speaking, Madison could handle pretty much everything the first few weeks threw at her. When the texts got more complex, we shared the load.

I'm anxious to try Madison with the second grade version of this curriculum this fall. I was an early reader, but like Madison, my memory carried me more than my actual reading skills. I really like how this curriculum forces her to dig deep. To write, to use grammar, to pull character traits, to summarize, and to truly understand and comprehend on a deeper level than answering basic recall questions.

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}

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Friday, June 23, 2017

You Homeschool? You Must Be So Organized!

I call myself a paper planner dinosaur. However, I still haven't found the "perfect" homeschool planner, so when I got a chance to review an online planner, I was very willing to take it on and give it a chance. Yes, I love how pretty my paper planner is, but I will admit that there are moments that it's not ideal. I'm always willing to try something new to get organized. With Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-op I can do so much more than just creating assignments!

Homechool Planet

Set up is easy and can take either no time at all, or plenty, depending on how much you like to play with design. The first thing I did is make everyone an account. It is VERY user friendly and easy to set up "My Family." This allows you to add everyone on that you want to be able to access this planner. That way everyone can always see exactly what's going on. It even allows you to have separate log ins (which I didn't think my kids were ready for yet). But when they are older, the kids can check their assignments easily. You can customize the look, and honestly, I could have spent hours tweaking it. You have the option to keep it on month view, week (always my choice) or daily. If you are looking for an online all in one planner, this is definitely for you. They have literally thought of everything to make all aspects of planning in your life simple. Realize mid-planning that you're out of glue? Add it to the shopping list. Realize that reading a certain book would help your history lesson pop? Add it to your reading list. It is available on laptop or mobile, so you can have easy access to your planner no matter where you are. And if you want to print anything out, you can. Truly, you have every option you would have with pencil and paper.

Now so far, I'm just discussing, and showing you, an online planner. It's a nice one. But it's a planner that you could use for anything, not just homeschool. I liked it - a lot - but I wasn't ready to toss my beautiful paper planner.

Adding classes is when I realized that I actually do need this in my life. You create a class - as general (math) or specific (Math Mammoth grade 2) as you like. Add the students you want - I have both girls doing history, science, and things like that together, but separate for reading, writing, and math. Pick how many days a week you want to work. Choose how long you want the class to last (math might take all year, a unit study for history might have a six week time span.) Enter assignments. You can track days in school. You can generate reports. You can add notes about issues. You can take days off, you can adjust on the fly, but it truly does organize you and keep you moving toward a very organized homeschool life. I've been so worried about how I'm going to balance having both girls home full time with me, and this truly could take that worry and make it moot.

Full disclosure - as much as I'm gushing - and I am - I haven't been using this as thoroughly as I could for classes since we're heading into summer.  I am actually looking forward to sitting down and planning out next year!

If the planner itself wasn't enough, there is a  Lesson Plan Marketplace. They have professionally designed lesson plans that coordinate with your curriculum. You can purchase what you need (note: you are not purchasing the curriculum, just the plan) and they will fit right into your planner. It takes the guess work out of trying to do it yourself. If you sign up this month in June for a FREE one month trial, they are offering you a FREE lesson plan that is worth $5 to $15. There is no reason not to try it! I added Math Mammoth for grade 2 since we loved this curriculum so much when we switched to it back in the winter. I haven't gotten to truly use it yet, because we are finishing up our last bit of grade 1, but I was so excited to have it available.

I have to say this is one of those things that I loved much more than I thought I would. The lesson planner, lesson plan marketplace, and ability to keep all of my homeschool organization in one place is definitely a win!

Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Homeschool Planet {Homeschool Buyers Co-op Reviews}

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Riding Through American History

 When your husband is a history buff, your homeschooled kids are on their way to following in his footsteps, you have an avid Rush listener in your household (which is actually not me - the current climate of tension gives me a stomachache), and you get a chance to review Rush's series of kid's books - you take it! Ideally, I had these books in mind for Adam and the girls to read together, but since he's been traveling, Madison and I have been enjoying the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series from Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh. She is excited to fill him in on all that she experienced along with the characters.

Although I read the books in order myself, I let Madison choose which snapshot in history appealed to her the most, and she wanted to start with Rush Revere and the First Patriots. This book worked as a stand alone read just as well as it did as part of the series. Honestly, because the first book gives you some insight into the recurring characters, it does make sense to start there. However, I don't think we lost anything by going out of order.

The premise is that the character of Rush Revere is a substitute history teacher. After a few set-ups he bravely decides to enlighten two students, Tommy and Freedom, into a time travel field trip while on the back of a horse, "rush rush rushing" into the past. This time portal only opens to the words "rush rush rushing into", and Liberty the talking horse starts running towards adventure.

Adventures of Rush Revere

Book one, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, starts with a seasick Rush trying to manage the journey and arrive in one piece. The crew is wholly detached from the actual Pilgrims, and there is no sympathy for those who haven't yet found their sea legs on the rough voyage. Rush Revere, Liberty the horse, and two students meet important figures and learn why this group was willing to risk so much to settle in a new place, and how the foundations they laid were instrumental to the forming of the country later.

We read the second book, Rush Revere and the First Patriots, together, and finding Ben Franklin and Patrick Henry was like meeting old friends for Madison. She drew comparisons between what she already knew from the history we've done and the historical programming we've watched, and what we were reading here. This book, like the time period, is full of tension. You feel it as you read and you experience what went into the decisions to make a drastic change. I liked that the students that Rush and Liberty brought with them were different - including one who wasn't invited!

Book three takes us into war. Rush Revere and the American Revolution allows us to meet George Washington and John Hancock. This book does a great job of explaining why our soldiers do what they do, even when it's hard on them.

Book four, Rush Revere and the Star Spangled Banner is about so much more than the song. This book takes students through the Articles of Confederation and the writing and ratifying of the Constitution. Because Madison's namesake, James Madison, features prominently, she has requested this be our next book to read together, although I will probably take us through the rest of the series in order. This book includes Maddie, a homeschooler! I was so happy to see her featured - my Madison has complained that there are no homeschoolers in the books she reads about kids her age.

Book five, Rush Revere and the Presidency, is a very timely read. Cam, a student who joins in on many of these time traveling adventures, has decided to run for class president. This book would have been an excellent read aloud last fall, when Madison, only in first grade, was trying to understand all the intricacies of electing a president. In this book the prominent figures are the first three presidents AND their first ladies, but it also lays out the timelines, requirements, calculations, and the WHY of how this republic elects their leaders. I can't wait to read this one with my kids.

These books are absolutely beautiful. The quality is high and the artwork is gorgeous. Adam, as I mentioned, is a history buff. He didn't get a chance to read through the full books, but just with his skimming and what I told him, he was impressed at how accurate the history was. No creative editing - this is sound history wrapped up in a narrative story (well, with the addition of time travel and a talking horse. But we'd far prefer that to creative license with historical facts.)

Adventures of Rush Revere

These books are definitely above the level of my independent reader - I'd say fourth grade or above could comfortably read them. We chose to do them as a read aloud, and because we stopped to chat periodically, it took us about two weeks to get through the first in the series. Each book is about 200 pages.
Adventures of Rush Revere

Madison loves any sort of history that invites her to travel back in time and experience that history, so these books were right up her alley. Although I read only one with her, we looked through all of them, and she made connections of things that she's read and watched. I know she'll be into them all when we keep reading.

If the books inspire you to dig deeper, there is The Adventures of Rush Revere Website.  You’ll find an abundance of lesson plans, games, quizzes, and more to add to your study.

These books are a wonderful addition to the library of any child fascinated by history. I was so happy to get opinions from all sorts of readers - students and teachers!

Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series {Reviews}

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

WHAT Am I Doing Here?

Sometimes I get a chance to review a product, and it may seem like the timing is off. I'm three years into this homeschooling thing, and I'm getting the point where people are asking me for advice. But three years in, and I swear, there are still days when I want a very specific instruction book to tell me what "good" homeschooling should look like and wondering if I'm there yet. I'm getting more confident now, but in the beginning, I would have loved to have had How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook) from Apologia Educational Ministries to help me. Three years in, and I'm still glad I was able to check it out. It was a good refresher for me, and it's nice to have something I can actually point someone toward when they (whoa...) ask me for advice.

Apologia Educational Ministries 
Video is a big friend of mine when it comes to homeschool. I loved that the video clips were only about fifteen minutes long. It felt like it was one of those more experienced moms, checking in and sitting down for coffee with you for a few minutes.

"How did you make out trying what we talked about last time?"

"Let's talk about where you'll focus next."

"Take some time to think and plan on how this will look in your life, and we'll chat again soon."

You watch the video, and then you have some space in the workbook to reflect and plan.
How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook)

Here is how the coursebook is broken down:
  • Introduction: Join Us on the Journey
  • Chapter 1: How to Get the Most Out of This Course
Designing Your Road Map
  • Chapter 2: Setting Goals for the Journey
  • Chapter 3: Finding Support
  • Chapter 4: Choosing Curriculum
Finding Your Way
  • Chapter 5: Practical How-To’s (Nuts & Bolts)
  • Chapter 6: Organizing Your Homeschool Stuff
  • Chapter 7: Organizing Your Homeschool Day
  • Chapter 8: Tip from Veterans
Navigating the Detours
  • Chapter 9: Family Matters-Marriage
  • Chapter 10: Family Matters-The Rest
  • Chapter 11: Dealing with Opposition
Arriving at Your Destination
  • Chapter 12: High School Graduation and College
  • Chapter 13: If College Is Not the End Game
  • Chapter 14: You Can Make It!
Beginning Your Journey
  • Chapter 15: Continuing Education and Encouragement Opportunities
Obviously, we're not even close to college. Shhhh....all you moms who warn me that childhood will fly by much faster than I think and we'll be thinking about college before I'm done writing this review. Still, I was moved to work through these sections too. After all, your trip will be much harder if you don't know what your destination looks like.

Chapters 6 and 7 spoke to me strongly. I might be three years into this, but I'm still not totally comfortable with the way I have things organized. This course forced me to look at it again, and gave me some great tips to organize both the stuff and the day. For three years, I've only really been homeschooling one child while the other was either a toddler or in preschool. Next year, they'll both be home, and I'll have to readjust - juggling two grades worth of stuff and my time. It's daunting to think about, especially knowing how strong willed my little one can be, and how my older one needs encouragement over tough love. In addition, they both span several grade levels within their "official grade", so organization isn't optional. I have to re-figure this out. The DVD got me off to a good start.

I have one favorite homeschooling book that I read whenever I need a spark or a boost or a reason to remember why I do this, and now, I'll have this DVD to add to my "pick me up and put me back on track" stash. I know I'll be recommending this to families who are just beginning this journey!

Homeschool with Confidence & Internship for High School {Apologia Educational Ministries Reviews}

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