Wednesday, May 16, 2018

PandaParents (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Today, I have a bit of a different review for you guys.  This is an all in one style curriculum for preschoolers and kindergarten kids that focus on reading, writing, and S.T.E.M. skills. Designed for children ages 3-6 years old, MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS designed by PandaParents takes a different approach from conventional screen-based learning programs. Each month, families are given a course that includes an online video, downloadable PDF storybook and a printable PDF workbook.  At a pace of 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time, each course provides plenty of materials for learning each month.

About PandaParents

PandaParents focuses on what they call "M.E.S.S.Y. Learning". Believing that "stepping stone curriculums" that videos, digital games, and flashcards that focus on one subject at a time of focuses on rot memorization miss the mark for providing a solid learning foundation in brain development, PandaParents wanted to provide a better learning experience that instead build vast neural connections at an early age. The M.E.S.S.Y. learning program instead blends multiple subject material together in a creative manner.

Each letter in M.E.S.S.Y represents ParentParents way of learning:
M - Mixed subjects and activities for integrative learning
E - Engaging questions what challenge young children's brains
S - Simple 1-2-3 steps: read, learn and create
S - Smart designs for creative learning
Y - Yeah, a New Way to promote brain growth.

The process of M.E.S.S.Y. learning is fairly simple and follows a three-part format. One,  the student reads a story from the storybook or the story can be read together with the parent.  Second, the student can watch the story in video format. Third, activities that correspond with the story are provided in the workbook.  The workbook provides printable activities that range in subject from learning colors, letter recognition, and math concepts.  The curriculum is designed in a format that allows child and parent to work together.

For this review, I was able to look over three different months worth of curriculum, each focusing on a different letter or concept.  The first was A Jolly Jingling Journey.  This particular book/video combination was Christmas themed and featured two stories - a Jubulent Journey and An Epic Journey.  This unit focused on the letter J and introduced young students to the sounds J makes as well as to J words.

The second unit I was able to review was Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound.  This story follows the adventures of a cute little stunk as he tries to make his way home and focuses on the letter S and the sounds it makes.

The final unit was Mommy's Baby which focuses on first words, shapes, and animals. There was much repetition to this book and video, making it very easy for children to catch on and read the child part in response to the parent.

A page from the Mommy's Baby workbook

While the program was a bit too young for me to use with my own children, I do really wish I could have used it when they were younger, especially with Garrett.  The bright, vibrant videos and storybooks would have definitely appealed to him as well as the various activities from the workbooks.

Currently, PandaParents MESSYLEARNING is available in digital format with downloadable versions of the videos, workbooks and storybooks, however, there are physical versions in the works for purchase in the future.

#hsreviews  #preschoollearning #readingtokids #preschoolactivities #preschoolart #artforkids

For more information about the PandaParents and MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS, visit their website.  You can also find more information on the following social media sites:

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Kids Email (A Homeschool Crew Review)

One of the hardest parts of being a military family is living across the country from our families. When we move to California in 2010, we left my husband's family in Indiana and
my family in both New York and Texas.  In those years, we have only been able to see my family one time and we haven't seen his family at all since moving here.  However, through both phone calls and writing email, the children are able to communicate with far of family members like their grandparents.  

With the A one-year subscription to Kids Email Safe Email for Kids from Kids Email , the kids have been able to keep in touch with family members as well as to make new friends by exchanging pen pal emails with other Crewbie kids.

About Kids Email

Kids Email is a child-friendly email client that allows up to 6 children in your family to have their own email address.  Parents are able to set restrictions for each individual account as well as restrict who your child can send or receive emails from.  A "Safe" contact list allows for parents to add family members who are trusted that children can email without restrictions.  Parental settings allow control over who the child can send emails to as well as who they can receive emails from.  Parents can also receive a copy of all emails to a parents email account for review so that they can determine if the email is appropriate before it is sent or received.  Other features included are the ability to monitor files and images that are sent as attachments to emails to their child, restrict outside web links, and block profanity within the email their child receives.

Setting up the accounts for the children was super easy.  Parents have their own login which allows them to access the dashboard where they can set up each child's individual account as well as select which restrictions to place on that account.  Parents can opt to set up more restrictions on a younger child and fewer restrictions on an older child.  There is also an option for a Teen account which offers a more "grown up" look and feel. 

Comparison of Child's Account Versus Teen Account
Some features that are accessible from the parent account is a "Ground Child" option, which blocks the child from being able to access their account during a specific set period of time and a "Time Restriction" option that limits the child's ability to log into their email at only specific times of the day- so no checking and sending emails late at night when they should be asleep. 

The child's dashboard is very simple and easy for smaller children to maneuver.  The dashboard consists of the inbox (which is shown as soon as the child logs in), the option to write an email, a folder option for the organization of the inbox and sent emails, as well as quick access to the contacts list. 

Children are able to change the background image of their email screen, allowing them to select from a series of preloaded themes.  There is a settings option that allows the child to change the background image if they so desire.  The teen account is set up with similar options but with a feel more like that of a typical email client.

Some of the background options available

Email can be accessed through the website on any computer or tablet and also through using a free downloadable app available for both Apple and Android devices. A version of the app is also available on the Amazon store for access and monitoring of emails via a Kindle Fire tablet.

How We Used It

Ashleigh and Garrett both had a previous account with Kids Email and they both decided to just keep their previous email addresses.  All of their previous contacts were waiting for us and once I added their new pen pal contacts, they were ready to start writing back and forth to whomever they wanted (so long as Mom had pre-approved them and added them to their contact list). 

 Ashleigh enjoys the fact that she could attach photographs to her emails or that she could receive emails with attachments.  She really enjoyed getting an email that had drawings that one of her pen pals had made and she liked being able to show others her pets, her favorite toys or her own artwork.   They also enjoyed sending their Dad email while he was at work as well as emailing family members just to tell them how their day was going or what they were working on in school.

Having their own email allows for them to practice their language arts and reach out to others beyond our small household and also gives them some independence as they begin navigating the cyberworld. For Garrett, being able to discuss Minecraft with other boys his age has given him a purpose to actually use his writing skills in an enjoyable way as opposed to writing for schoolwork. I was actually impressed with how well he was able to express his thoughts in emails to his friends when trying to write ANYTHING for school is like pulling teeth.  

One of Garrett's emails

As a parent, I enjoy the fact that I can monitor each email that they send or receive and not have to worry about unwanted Spam or potential viruses and unwelcomed emails that I wouldn't want the children to see, so it's a win both ways.

#hsreviews  #parenting  #kidsemail  #emailforkids  #safety #kidfriendly

For more information about Kids Email, be sure to visit their website. You can also find them on the following social media platforms:
Safe Email for Kids {Kids Email Reviews}

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Picket Project (Post 1)

This past Tuesday, I made an early trip to head to the library to pick up a book I needed for an upcoming review (Homeschool Navigator).  I figured I'd head over around 10:30, pick up the book, swing by the commissary and be back before 11am . What I hadn't realized is that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, our library opens at 11am, not at 9am like it does the rest of the week.  I had a good 15 minutes before the libary would open, so I would just reverse my order: run to the commissary and pick up what I needed and then hit the library afterwards once it was open.  Granted, I would start school a few minutes late but hey, that's okay, we homeschool ;) 

As I began to drive down the road in the direction I had just come from, I noticed a small black object in the lane. The car in front of me noticed it too and swerved at the last minute. I figured it was trash in the road but when it didn't blow away from the car but instead hopped towards the car (and nearly in front of my car) I realized it wasn't. Just as I was moving to avoid it, I noticed it's ears pop up - it was a baby bunny.  I watched in my rear view as the car behind me almost hit the poor thing and did a U-turn, parked in the middle of the opposite lane in a 4 lane road and figured I would scare it into heading back into the desert where it must have came from.  Just as I was pulling up to stop, my attention was brought to a 2nd bunny - because a huge hawk swooped down and grabbed it. Yeah, this lil bun bun needed help. 

I tried to scare the little guy to head back to the desert but he was too small to hop over the curb. Instead, he turned back towards the road and headed straight to my car, trapping himself between me and my rear tire.  So, with the combination of the bunny NOT going to the desert,  the fact I just watched the 2nd bunny become some hawk's late breakfast and the fact I was parked in the inside lane of a 4 lane road with a big military truck heading my way, I made the split decision to scoop up said bunny, deposit it on the passenger seat of my car and drive away before anything else happened. (ie: squished baby bunny, squished me, or squished Subaru Forrester).  Leaving the baby in the road wasn't an option. 

So, I came home with this. 

My original though was that I had a baby bunny that was fully furred, eyes opened  and was probably several weeks old so I would just rescue the bunny from being roadkill and when the sun started going down, return said bunny safely to the desert.  However, once I got the bunny home and had a closer look, we realized that we did not have a baby bunny at all - we had a black tail jack rabbit. A VERY young black tailed jack rabbit - as in, a neonatal, maybe 8-10 days old, black tailed jack rabbit. 

As we learned about Jackrabbits, trying to find out what would be our best bet for this guy, we learned that the mom makes a very shallow nest on the desert ground, leaving it pretty much unprotected during the day and she only returns to nurse the babies at night.  When they are born, they are fully furred with their eyes open and are mobile but can't forage or live on their own til around 6-9 weeks old.  So, the idea of releasing this guy back in the desert that night wasn't going to happen.  Our best guess is that something, maybe a snake, coyote or bobcat found the nest and the two babies manages to get away but went into the road. 

The bad news (but good news for me) about jackrabbits in California is that they are not a protected species - surprising since almost everything in this state is protected. Jackrabbits are not and are considered a game mammal and nussance animal.  You can kill them on your property with no special hunting licenses and no legal reprocussions.  This is good news for me, however, because it meant that I also do not need a special license to care for this little guy, nor do I need to find a rehabilitation facility to bring him to (not that any would take him).  Instead, it means the kids are getting an up close nature study and we are all having to learn much about baby jackrabbits.  The kids have begun to call him Picket, after the rabbit in The Green Ember. 

For starters, we learned that this little guy was going to have to be nursed with milk as he is too young to forage for food just yet,  So, a few times a day he gets roughly 1/10th of a cup of goats milk fed to him with a pippette so that he can control how fast he eats to avoid aspiration.  We learned that in the wild, his mother would only feed him once at night, but since he's being fed goats milk instead of his mother's milk, we feed him three times a day (10am, 4pm, 10pm) since it's not as thick or nutrient dense. We have also put some 1st cut Timothy hay down in his container so that when he starts wanting to forage, it is available to him.  We also have a small dish of water and some fresh greens available for him when he begins to want solid food.

So far, the hardest part is reminding the kids (and myself) that he (if he is indeed a he, he could be a she lol) is not a pet but is a wild animal. Once he begins to forage for food, we have safe rabbit holes that we can release him to. (Jackrabbits, unlike rabbits, do not make for good pets even when hand raised).  Since we already have other jackrabbits as well as desert cottontail in our immediate area, we know it will be a safe area for him to be released to. 

Just in a few days, he's grown quite a bit from that first day..  I mean, look at that face!!

He seems to like watching while Ashleigh's doign her artwork (excuse the mess).  

Hard to believe that lil guy is going to turn into this. 

I'll try to give updates each week to Picket's development for the next few weeks leading up to his release hopefully next month. We have dubbed this our Picket Project with the final goal beign to release a happy, healthy black tailed jackrabbit. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Truth and Training Thursday

Thursday marked the last day of our AWANA year for the 2017-2018 school year and that meant awards night for all the kids who worked hard on memorizing their verses.

 It also marked Alyssa's first year as a Leader for the Sparks group.

And it marked the completion of Ashleigh's second year in the Truth and Training group.

The Sparks had a large group finish off the year.   Almost all of Alyssa's kids finished their books this year.

 For a Thank You for their hard work with the Sparkies, Mrs Till acknowledged each leader (and the two leaders in training) with a gift card for lunch on base as well as a box of Cracker Jacks.

After the Sparks were given their ribbons for their accomplishments, the TNT groups were brought up on stage for their accomplishments.

 Each kid was given a goody bag from their leaders.

After their goodie bags, awards were handed out. Many of the T&Ters finished their first book, a few of them finished their second book, and at least one of them completed their third book.  They were also awarded pins to those who had memorized not only their verses each week but went beyond and memorized TruthScripts as well.

Ashleigh was given the Excellence award for completion of her 2nd book.  This consisted of a pin for her shirt next year as well as a trophy to keep on her shelf.

She also recieved two pins for memorizing TruthScripts, one for Psalms 23 and the second for James 1: 2-12.

Afterwards, the kids all got together in the Annex for an ice cream social.  They also opened up the AWANA store for those kids who had AWANA bucks to spend. Ashleigh had 35 dollars so we headed outside with our ice creams, enjoyed the nice weather and waited for the store to open.

Ashleigh's awards for the year.

Ashleigh will be back in T&T for her 3rd year in September. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Kayla Jarmon (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Many times, situations arise in our lives that are beyond our children's understandings.   For example, roughly 6 years ago, I suffered a late miscarriage, something that is very difficult for children to understand. Where did the baby go?  How was it still in mommy's belly but was no longer going to be a part of our family?  We also have been tying to prepare the children for the loss of a beloved by very elderly family member.    Sometimes, it's easier to find the answers to these types of questions through an already prepared story that gently touches on those types of topics.

Members of the Crew were given three ebooks by author, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend in Christ  Kayla Jarmon.

A Boy and His Dog

In this 40 page book, we see the relationship between a boy and his dog as they go about a typical day.  From waking up, hunting for frogs, playing tug of war, splashing in mud puddles, to taking a bath and going to sleep, only repeat the process, A Boy and His Dog could represent any little boy and his favorite furry companion.

Written by Kayla Jarmon, this book features full color illustrations by Piper Miru.  The text is pretty simplistic and written at an early elementary level (my kids were able to read it with no issues at a 3rd and 4th grade reading level). Out of the three books we reviewed, this one appealed to them the most.

Don't Forget Me 

This 70 page book is the first book in the "Discussion Book Series" written by Kayla Jarmon and illustrated by Piper Miru.

I'll be honest, none of us cared much for this particular book.  The concept is cute - a conversation between an unborn baby and God, showing that God is with us even in the womb and never leaves us.  However, the execution of this particular story just didn't appeal to me or the kids.  There's way too much going on that distract from the main focus of the story and something about the tone of the text bugged me. The kids got bored with it fairly quickly but it did provide a good discussion about God is always with us and that he has known us even before our conception.

Dying Is Part of This World

The final book written by Kayla Jarmon and also illustrated by Piper Miru is the second book of the Discussion Series entitled Dying is Part of this World.  This 58 page book is written in a different format from the other two books - while the first two are written as story books, this book is broken into 7 chapters.  Each chapter roughly 6-8 pages long and is followed Biblical verses that supply reference to statements made in the text. At the end of each chapter is a page of discussion questions to help guide a discussion between the parent and the child and discuss topics such as Christian believed regarding life after death.

This particular book is written at a higher reading level than the previous books.  Considering the topic of discussion and the higher reading level of the text, I would say this book would be better for older children, possibly early middle school.  The illustrations included in the book also reflect this book being written for an older targeted audience as they are simple black and white line drawings at the start of each chapter.  I did, however, share it with my kids as I thought that it would be good for a discussion about death and dying to help prepare them for the inevitable loss of their beloved Great-Grandmaw.   This book does a good job explaining why we, as Christians, should not fear death.

For those readers who are Non-Believers, both of the two Discussion series books are written from a strong Christian point of view and support Christian doctrine with Scripture to back up the material.  As a Christian, I do appreciate and value that outlook but I do mention it for those who might not share my beliefs. The Boy and his Dog, while a very cute story, does not necessarily hold any religious value to it and is just a really cute story in regards to a boy and his dog and would be enjoyed by anyone.

#hsreviews  #Christianmoms #Christianmothers #Christianmamas #Christianparenting #Christianparents #Christianfamilies #Christianfamily #Proverbs31 #Proverbs31women #Proverbs31woman #proverbs31girl #Christianwomen #Christainwoman #Christianlife #Christianliving #christianauthors #Christianauthor #christianwriters #Christianbloggers #Christianwriters #Christianauthor #Christianauthors

To learn more about books by author Kayla Jarmon, visit her website. You can also find her on the following social media sites:

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Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews}

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