Monday, October 23, 2017

Kid Niche Christian Books ( A Homeschool Crew Review )

Up until last year, we always tried to include a daily Bible study into our school day.  However, that changed when Ashleigh began AWANA, which meant that each day, Ashleigh and I were working through her book to help her memorize and understand the scriptures she needed for the week.  This also meant that Garrett, who wasn't interested in participating in AWANA, was not working on Bible studies and left me with feelings of guilt.

When I was given the opportunity to review Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1, a Bible and prayer study for tweens aged students from Kid Niche Christian Books, I was interested.  I had already been thinking about adding a weekly Bible study for just Garrett to work through on the days the girls were gone to AWANA.

About Weave Your Word in Me -- Part 1

Weave Your Word in Me--Part 1 is the first half of a two-part Bible study written by Susan Case Bonner that revolves around the
Lord's Prayer. It is targeted for students 4th-6th Grade or for family devotionals.  Designed to be placed in a three-ring binder, the study consists of 72 loosed leaf, full color illustrated pages pre-punched for standard three-ring binders on heavy 70# paper.

The study consists of 36 lessons. The first half focuses on "God the Father" while the second half of the study focuses on "God the Son" (part 2 of the study continues with "What God Wants" and "God the Holy Spirit").  Each lesson consists of scripture to read, fill-in-the-blank style passages, illustrations, and activities that help the child to focus on the topic and to reflect on what they are learning.  Additional activities that can be used to look deeper into the lesson can be found online.

This study is designed around a prayer (My Whole Self Before You) which is modeled after the Lord's Prayer.  I'm not familiar with this prayer but it seems like it uses the ideas behind the original into a more simplified, child-friendly version.  For example, instead of "Give us this day our daily bread",
My Whole Self Before You states "Please give me those things, God, you know that I need".

How We Used It

Garrett noticing the word "tween" on the cover
Garrett just turned 11 this month and we made a big deal out of the fact he was now considered a "tween".  So he was very happy to see that this study made mention of being designed for Tweens right on the cover.  That immediately helped him to make a connection to this study being just for him and would not be something that he would have to share with his sister. It also thrilled Garrett to know that this was a study he and I would do together, while the girls were away at Chapel so that we could share alone time - just him, myself and God.

Each lesson is between one to three pages in length. The scripture readings and the text of the study are not overwhelming for him so it was very easy for him to complete even the longer lessons in one sitting without much struggle.  Garrett was also happy to find that the blanks for him to fill his answers in providing plenty of room since he tends to write big and often gets frustrated when he lacks space.

This study is designed to be used with following Bible translations:  King James Version (KJV), English Standard Version (ESV), New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB) and New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). While not one of the recommended translations, we used the Holoman Christian Standard Bible to complete our lessons, as that tends to be the version Garrett seems most comfortable reading from due to wording and print size. Although I did keep my own copy of New Living Translation (NLT) beside me as well as BibleGateway pulled up on my Kindle just in case. So far, however,  we have not needed them.

Here's a video of Garrett reading one of the scripture selections from the study.


I really like the larger font used in this study.  My eyesight is not what it was when I was younger and the larger print meant that I did not have to remove the study from in front of Garrett in order to help him with a word - I could simply read it from beside him. Garrett also liked the larger font because it was easier for him to concentrate on the words on the page. He tends to trip over words while reading with smaller text.

Extra space to write - and can you tell my son thinks with his stomach?
Since the text made it easier for Garrett to read, this meant that I was able to let him sit with the study and his Bible in front of him and he would work his way through the day's study.  Then, we would sit together and discuss what the material covered so that I could make sure Garrett was grasping the information.

We really enjoyed accessing the extra activities on the website as well.  These are small tidbits of information accompanied by songs, prayers and other information that goes a bit more into the topic of each lesson.
Also included on the website is actual physical activities that the child can do.  This might be visiting a pottery to observe how the potter molds the clay, designing and coloring their own stained glass, or learning about and writing their own acrostics.  While we didn't always do the actual activity, we still found ways to talk about the material on the website. For example, Garrett had already had the opportunity to watch and talk with a potter who spent much time telling Garrett how clay was made and how the pottery wheel worked.  So he was easily able to relate that experience to the discussion about how God made us with his own hand and shaped us just as a potter shapes the clay.

After doing an activity about the stained glass window depicting Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, we took the time to study and talk about the stained glass window that's in the chapel at our church.  Garrett has always liked the stained glass at our church, but we only recently noticed that it depicted the base that we live on, with Joshua Trees, mountains and even jets flying through the sky.
Garrett's depiction of Jesus Praying at Gethsemane
My only small complaint is that I think the targeted age group (4th-6th grade) are old enough to understand the Lord's Prayer and I prefer Garrett to learn it over My Whole Self Before You. However, the front of the study contains a page that shows a verse/stanza comparison of the two side by side, making it easy for Garrett to read the two and get a better understanding of what Jesus meant in the original.

Garrett's opinion of Weave Your Word in Me?  - "The Bible study is awesome."

Overall, I really do like this Bible Study and I am really appreciating the time that Garrett and I have been spending together with the Lord and will continue to spend our weekly time letting Garrett get to know God better while we spend special time together.

"I really do like this Bible Study and I am really appreciating the time that Garrett and I have been spending together with the Lord and will continue to spend our weekly time letting Garrett get to know God better while we spend special time together." #hsreviews #tweensbiblestudy #prayer #biblecurriculum

For more information about Kid Niche Christian Books and the Weave Your Word in Me series by Susan Case Bonner, visit their website at http://kidniche.com.  You can also find more information at the following social media sites:

Weave Your Word in Me {Kid Niche Christian Books Reviews}

Thursday, October 19, 2017

AWANA Thursday

It's Thursday night and that means it's time for another AWANA Thursday :)

Often, AWANA has theme nights.  Tonights night was Paper Airplane night and awards were given out for furthest flight and longest airtime. While Ashleigh's plane did not take an award for either category, she did have fun making a plane and getting to decorate it and fly it.

Alyssa's Sparkies Bible study was from Genesis 11:1-8 and the Tower of Babel.  They also discussed how to keep their focus on God.  Sparks are doing great with their verses and most everyone has completed at least 4 sections out of their book.  A few of them are even about to get their entrance cards into the Sparky High Flyer club which will give them opportunities for prizes and family participating.

Alyssa and her Sparkies on Paper Airplane Night

Ashleigh had to do her review section for sections 1.1-1.5 of her book this week. This required her to recite the five verses she had previously recited over the last few weeks. 

Ashleigh reciting her verses
She recited the following verses word perfect and will now move on to section 2 of her book.   These are the verses that she recited this week. 

But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King.  At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.  Jeremiah 10:10

It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens.  - Jeremiah 10:12

Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? 

If I ascend to heaven, You are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.     -  Psalms 139: 7-10

O LORD.  You have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up.  You discern my thoughts from afar. 

You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  -- Psalm 139:1-3

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  - 2 Corinthians 13:14

Next week there will not be an actual AWANA meeting for the kids but instead, the chapel will host it's annual Harvest Festival with Trunk or Treat.  We will actually be decorating our Forrester for this event and Alyssa will be passing out candy to all the kiddos who attend while Ash and Garrett dress up and have a bit of fun.  

And, as for Garrett, well, he came home with me during AWANA time and he made a very yummy batch of Salted Caramel brownies ;) 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wordless Wednesday

Back in Feb, I wrote about the fact we had gotten a tadpole so that we could observe the transformation from tadpole to frog in our classroom.   The paperwork that came with our tadpole said it should take about sixteen weeks from delivery until we had a frog.

Well, here it is 8 months later (more than twice the time) and while we still don't have a frog, we do have a pollywag. lol

Here was "Tad" when we first received him.

And here's "Tad" today, with a pretty nice set of back legs but still no front buds.  He's gotten much bigger and fatter, but alas, I don't think a frog is in our near future ;)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc. (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Members of the Review Crew were asked to review two items from The Pencil Grip, Inc., the Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and the 3 Step Training Kit, a series of three transitional pencil grips.

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors are designed for younger kids who are just beginning to learn cutting skills but are still at risk of getting hurt with a normal pair of scissors.

Typical bunt edge safety scissors tend to have a dull cutting edge making effective cutting a bit of a challenge.  These scissors have overcome this disadvantage by designing a pair of scissors with a sharp cutting edge that is completely protected by a plastic guard, only exposing the stationary blunt edge. A channel between the plastic guard and the upper stationary blade allow for the paper to be fed safely into the scissors but is not wide enough for small fingers, eliminating the risk of accidental cuts. The lower cutting blade is also slightly shorter than the blunted upper blade which prevents poking that can result in more pointed scissors.

The yellow plastic training lever acts as a spring load mechanism allowing the scissors to automatically open, making it easier for younger cutters.  This mechanism can be swung up later to allow for children to get used to the hand movements needed to operate a normal pair of scissors when they are ready.

These are great for those just learning to cut but wouldn't be recommended for precise cutting.  Actually liked using them for some things but for our lapbooking, they were a bit hard to maneuver in order to get precise cutting lines and she quickly switched to her "grown up scissors". 

We were also given the 3 Step Training Kit for our review.  This is a set of three soft, squishy silicone grips are designed to be used in steps to teach children to properly hold and control their writing utensils comfortably.  They simply slip over your choice of writing utensil (pencil, pen, crayon, colored pencil, ect) to provide a more ergonomic hold.

The first of these grips is the Crossover grip, which combines indentions for the fingers to comfortably sit along with wings that rest on top of the fingers to keep the fingers in the proper position and keep them from crossing over each other.

The second grip is the Pinch Grip. Also made of the same squishy silcone, this grip helps to find proper balance of the pencil as well as to encourages proper hand placement on the pencil, reducing hand fatigue.   Both Garrett and Ashleigh liked using this one.

The final grip is the Pencil Grip.  This grip also encourages natural hand placement but is less bulky in size and shape.  This was the grip that I found most comfortable for the way I hold a pen.

Pencil grips are recommended by the Arthritis Foundation and can be used by both left and right-handed writers.

Two small caveats we found about the pencil grips. The blue one didn't seem to hold well on the pencil and wanted to slide down while the Garrett, who used it the most, was writing.  It did hold well to the plastic of the pen that it originally came attached to, so I just ended up transitioning him to writing with a pen to make things easier.  Second, we have three cats and a dog and we noticed these tend to attract fur easily.  They are easy to rinse off with soap and water, however, so this was not a big issue (other than realizing I need to vacuum/dust more often).

#hsreviews #pencilgrip #safetyscissors #preschoolsupplies

For more information about the many products offered by The Pencil Grip, Inc., visit their website. You can also find them on the following social media platforms:

Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Monday, October 16, 2017

Reading Eggs (A Homeschool Crew Review)

If you've surfed the internet looking for ideas for language arts for early elementary students, you've more than likely come across advertisements for the website Reading Eggs.  Geared to help young students learn important reading skills, the website uses colorful animals, sounds and a reward system to guide children through learning phonics and word recognition.

Maybe like me, you used the free 4 week trial they offer a while back but found that it might have been a bit too young for your child.  I thought that too when we originally tried reading eggs and while my kids enjoyed it three years ago, they were beyond reading simple consonant-vowel-Consonant words like Cat and Ant. Well, members of the Review Crew had the opportunity to try Reading Eggs and explore all the new additions that the website has made and while I can say the kids love it just as much as our first time, Mom is happy to see that the website has grown well beyond Cat and Ant and even includes early elementary math.

 Click for the 4 Week Trial

A subscription to the Reading Eggs website gives the subscriber access to four different Reading Eggs programs: Reading Eggs Junior (ages 2-4), Reading Eggs (ages 3-7), and Reading Eggspress (ages 7-13, grades 1-6) and also to MathSeeds (ages 3-9).

How We Used It

We were offered a 6-month subscription for both Ashleigh and Garrett to use all the functions and activities that Reading Eggs offers.  After taking the included Placement test, Garrett started Reading Eggs while Ashleigh started Reading Eggspress. Ashleigh's placement test actually put her towards the middle of the Reading Eggspress program but I decided it would benefit her to start with Map 1 and work her way through the complete program.

Login to the website is easy.  Each child has a tab with their own avatar that they can create along with their name, making it simple for them to select their learning maps. They simply select their tab and click the green "Start" button to take them to the main screen for their program.

Since Garrett is working on Reading Eggs, that tab is raised for him.  But he also has access to the other levels such as Mathseeds if he wanted to work on those lessons.  Since he's concentrating on Reading and typically does well with math, we've been sticking to working through the Reading Eggs portion of the website.

This is the main screen of the Reading Eggs portion of the program.

From this screen, Garrett can choose to work through a lesson, work on the weeks spelling words, take a "driving test" or work on the Story Factory, where he can write a story for submission based on a topic given.   At the bottom row, there are selections where he can go to his "house" (more about that in a few moments), look at awards that he has achieved, play word games, shop for items for his house using the eggs he has won in completing lessons, and other activities to help build his reading and vocabulary.

Lessons follow along a Map, which contains 10 lessons.  Each lesson builds upon the previous lessons, reviewing words learned.  As the student completes the lesson, the egg beside the lesson number hatches with a surprise "critter".  The student's avatar moves around the path giving a visual account of what lesson the student is on and how many lessons are left on each map.  Certificates of Achievements are earned at the completion of the map and taking a quiz over the material covered on the map. Depending on the results of the quiz, students can earn Gold, Silver or Bronze.

When the student backs out of the Map, they are presented with this page, which gives them a few of the same options as the main screen.  It also gives a list of books the student can read in order to get "rare" rewards.   So far, Garrett has read 3 books.  He can also take the driving test, work through a spelling lesson or proceed to the next lesson from this screen.  Or, he can change his avatar here as well.

The Spelling section brings up a set of activities separate from the lesson on the map.  These introduce students to a particular word family (In this case, "amp" words and "ent" words. )  After he moves through the activities, he's given a spelling test where he is required to type 12 words from memory.  Finishing the test rewards the student with a larger amount of golden eggs (which are used for shopping for their avatar or for their house) as well as their choice out of four mystery gifts. These spelling tests have worked really well for Garrett as he prefers to type rather than write his answers out.

The lessons themselves consist of 12 activities. Activities are initially locked - students unlock the next activity upon completing the current activity.  Lessons must also be done in order in order to unlock the next lesson.

Each activity takes only a few minutes and varies each lesson.  This was great for Garrett who has a very short attention span and loses interest in doing the same thing over and over.

The Test Drive portion tests for recognition of common sight words.  Each selection of the correct word sends the little car around a portion of the track as they are tested on 20 sight words.

In addition to the website, teachers are able to print out worksheets for extra practice away from the computer and can be found under the "Bonus Materials" section of the main screen.

Each lesson has roughly six worksheets that are matched with the lesson.  Worksheets are available for Reading Eggs, Reading Eggspress, and Mathseeds. While the worksheets are geared for students a bit younger than Garrett, I found the worksheets helpful to reinforce spelling and writing the words for Garrett.

Each activity that the student completes earns them golden eggs.  These eggs can be used at the shopping mall where they can buy items for their avatar or they can buy items for their house.  Garrett has a weird sense of decorating, but here's his house that he has decorated so far.   (I'm not sure what he saw in that large foot.. lol)

A brand new addition to Reading Eggs is program guides specifically designed to support homeschooling.  These guides are designed for grades Kindergarten through 2nd Grade. These guides help to provide 36 weeks of language arts, mathematics, science and social study using lessons, quizzes, and books from the Reading Eggspress library to create a full online learning curriculum for these lower grades.

Here's a video of Garrett actually using Reading Eggs.

Ashleigh has been using the Reading Eggspress section of the Reading Eggs website.  This portion of the website is geared for students 7 to 13 years of age.  The general idea of this section follows the same layout as the Reading Eggs portion, but the material and animations are less cartoony and more appropriate for older elementary students.

These lessons are focus less on phonics and more on reading comprehension and providing tools to help students read proficiently, such as identifying the main topic of a paragraph.

Originally, when we took the placement test for Ashleigh, she was placed pretty high on the lesson chart (I think she was placed at Lesson 64).  After a few lessons, I made the decision to reset this and start Ashleigh on the first lesson of the 3rd Grade. This wasn't because I thought the material was too tough for her but because I really liked the material being covered and decided she might benefit from the lower level lessons.  I'm glad I did this because the first few lessons have taught her how to make notations while reading to indicate that she understands what is being read and to make words that she is unsure of. It has also taught her how to use context around the unknown words to make an educated guess as to the meaning of the unknown word.

The main screen of Reading Eggspress is set up very similar to that of Reading Eggs, minus thing such as the Racing game for Sight Words.  Students can work on lessons, read books in their library, compete with other children (with the safety of anonymously) on things such as spelling, or they can work on English Skills individually.  Students can shop at the mall to buy clothing for their avatar or furniture for their apartment using golden eggs they have earned.  The apartment is much less "kiddified" then the house in Reading Eggs.  As you can see, Ashleigh has purchased a pet mouse and a pretty background for her balcony with her golden eggs.

The English Skills portion has students work on proper spelling as well as proofreading and correcting mistakes in sentences.  For proficient readers, the questions can be read for the student.  If they are unsure of a word or are maybe less proficient in their reading skills, they can hit the speaker button to have the question read to them.

At the end of these lessons, the student is given a spelling test with ten words that they must spell correctly.  We did find the spelling words to be a bit too easy but I have a feeling that will change as we progress further into this section.

Ashleigh has only completed a few lessons out of this section but I am finding it to be a section that we will probably devote much time too.

Ashleigh has also been using the MathSeeds portion of the website.  This section is for ages 3-9. Ashleigh is on the higher end of this targeted age at 9, but she does struggle with math so we thought it would be good to review some of the skills she's not so comfortable with. MathSeeds offers 175 lessons over 35 Maps that students can explore.  After taking the placement test, Ashleigh was started on lesson 91 which has been giving her a really good review of addition problems. Printable worksheets are also available to accompany each lesson.

This section is right up Ashleigh's alley as it uses lots of cartoon animals, which she absolutely loves.  The animations are really cute but not too "babified".

While I won't be using this strictly for our math curriculum (since we are doing multiplication and division right now), the review has been great for Ashleigh.  This material does fall under common core teaching, which can be a bit confusing for those teaching students tradition math, but for Ashleigh, the presenting of the material in this manner seems to be helping her.

The main screen for Mathseeds is set up much the same as Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress, with a driving test (think animated flash cards) and an award section, a shop and a tree house to decorate.  The Arcade tests math skills in fun games that increase in difficulty as the child progresses and awards acorns (Mathseeds version of the golden eggs) for their performance.  The play section offers counting games in a fun carnival-like theme, but Ashleigh found these a bit too young for her.  (As she says: " knows how to count - duh!!") but I could see younger students being able to enjoy this section a lot.

Reading Eggs has definitely added quite a bit of material to their site since I last looked at it and while I won't use it as a curriculum since my kids are a bit on the older side for it, it has been a very fun tool to use for reviewing skills with Ashleigh. For Garrett, it has really changed his approach to reading as it engages him and keeps him involved with the quick but varying activities that he enjoys.

#hsreviews #readingeggs #learntoread

For more information about Reading Eggs, visit their website and take advantage of their free 4 week trial. You can also find Reading Eggs on the following social media sites:

•   Instagram (handle): readingeggs 

•   Twitter: https://twitter.com/readingeggs @readingeggs

Reading Eggs

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