Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Memoria Press-First Start Reading

My preschooler has really been soaking up learning lately so I was excited to recently have been given the chance to review First Start Reading from Memoria Press. I have had the chance to use curriculum from Memoria Press in the past and we have really enjoyed their approach to learning and the ease of use of their curriculum.

What is it?

First Start Reading is a classical curriculum that teaches reading, phonics and printing that includes focusing on correct pencil grip. Granted, my daughter was a little on the younger age for this curriculum as she will only be 4 in July but she has really shown an interest in learning phonics and can already write her name. Knowing those facts, I figured she would really enjoy using this curriculum. They focus on the more traditional approach to phonics learning the vowel-consonant style as well as learning word families along the way.

First Start Reading-Memoria Press

The full curriculum package contains a 322 page teachers guide and 4 consumable student books that costs $42.95. This curriculum can be used in a classroom or homeschool setting as indicated in the teachers guide.

Teachers Guide

The teachers guide takes 2 pages per lesson to walk you through how to implement the student book and even gives suggestions for dialogue to say to the student. It starts out having the teacher/mom pointing to the photos in the student book and asking them what the photos are which then leads to talking about what letter they start with. From there, you go on to show them the sound the letter makes. You then share words with the student and ask them if those words start with the specific letter sound you are working on.

After discussing the letter and its sound, you then show them how to form the letter in both lower & uppercase. They suggest using a chalkboard or whiteboard for this part. Then you move onto having the student practice writing the letter in their book.

Teachers Guide on the left, student book on the right with my daughter practicing writing.

Student Workbook

Each lesson has 2 pages. When they are learning a new letter, the first page shows the upper & lower case letter then it has 2 black & white pictures of something that starts with that letter. The child can color those photos. On the page next to it, there is a blank box for the child to draw their own photo that starts with that letter. Below that, there are several lines for the child to practice writing the letter being highlighted on that page. The first line has light dots for the child to trace for the uppercase letter then the next line they are to write it out themselves. The 3rd line has dots for the student to trace the lower case letter with the 4th line blank for them to practice writing it themselves. The 5th line has a combo of upper & lowercase letters for the child to trace & write.

Every couple of lessons, the curriculum takes the previous letters the child learned to combine them into a word. For example the first 2 lessons in "Book A" teach the letters "M" and "A". The third lesson them combines them to teach the student the word "AM". The approach is unique in that there is a dotted line linking the 2 letters together so you sound them out slowly joining their sounds together. The child also traces and writes the word as well.

In the later books which we haven't gotten to yet, the lessons have the student writing out full words and reading short stories. There are also pages where the parent dictates words for the student to write (basically like a spelling test).

How we used it

My daughter could not WAIT to start this program! I only wanted to do one lesson a day so she would be able to soak in what she was learning but boy she begged to do another lesson once we were finished for the day. I would sit down with her and point to the letter at the top of the page and tell her what it is (she knew many of them prior to starting the curriculum). Then I'd ask her to tell me what the pictures were and we'd overemphasize the letter sound. From there, I'd recite some words to her and ask her if they started with that specific letter. Then I'd ask her to come up with words on her own that started with that letter.

Afterwards, I'd ask her to come up with a picture to draw starting with that letter. Then I would very lightly write that word in pencil in the photo for her to trace. After she was done coloring the photos on both pages, we'd move onto how to write the letter. I had a small white board that I used to show her how to write the letter then I'd let her practice. Once she felt good about writing it, we'd move back to the student book where she would follow their guidance and practice writing her letter.

Not too bad for a 3 year old!!!

By the 3rd lesson, she was reading her first sentence, "I am Olivia"!!! She was SO incredibly proud! Throughout the days after her lessons, I would occasionally ask her what letter or word she learned today and the sounds that they made just to make sure she was still recalling it. I am beyond impressed how well she is learning at such a young age her phonics and even her handwriting is blowing me away.

I truly wish I had had this program when my older children were preschool/kindergarten age. I LOVE that there is NO prep work at all for me, I can simply open up the teacher guide to see what I am supposed to do with her and we sit down to do the work. I'd say we spent 20 minutes a day on a lesson but keep in mind she is only 3 and I added a bit to the lesson to really help drill the letter & sounds with her. I will definitely be using this with my other preschooler when she is ready to start learning her phonics!

Connect with Memoria Press on:
Memoria Press Review
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Real Life Homeschooling- When Tough Times Strike

Life is full of ups and downs, good times and tough times. Hard times are already challenging enough to deal with but add in homeschooling to the mix and those tough times can be overwhelming. Whether you just had a baby, a spouse lost a job, you're moving, illness strikes or a loved one died, temporarily adjusting your homeschool schedule is needed in order to cope.

Our family has been through several challenging times over the years. From my husband being in the hospital several times, fostering a medically fragile baby, a child's injury & 5 months of physical therapy, and on and on. By far though the hardest time we went through during homeschooling was the life limiting diagnosis of our son Noah while I was still yet pregnant with him. We received news he was going to die while we were finishing up our homeschool year and his death came just a few weeks before we were to start our new school year.

My children were all elementary age at this time so we had a bit more leniency to abruptly change our schedule. When we received his diagnosis, we stopped schooling for several days as we processed the news. Once we started back, we simply finished up the crucial things that needed to be done in order to put together our portfolios.

After his death when it came time to start school again, we kept our schooling to the basic subjects for awhile, especially the ones my children could do on their own such as Teaching Texbooks for math where they are taught by a DVD program. 

Some days though, all that managed to get done around here was watching a few educational DVD's (and that didn't even always happen) and making sure there was food in the house for everyone to eat. Housework and everything else got pushed aside because that's all I could manage. 

And you know what, that is ok!!!! There is so much life learning that can be accomplished outside of bookwork.

Looking back, I can see how my children learned the gift of empathy after going through all we did with our son. They have since reached out and given support to other kids also going through similar circumstances with losing a sibling. My children learned how to help run a house with picking up my slack with the household chores and cooking on days I was having a rough grief day (I was also recovering from childbirth so I was limited in what I could do). They learned that it's ok to cry and express your sadness which I think has helped strengthen our relationships with each other. There are so many other life lessons my children learned during our tough times that could've never have been learned from a book. Lessons that will reap rewards long into adulthood.

With that said, here are some tips if you find yourself in the trenches during the school year:

-Stick to the Basics
          State requirements can vary by state but during the rough days just do what you absolutely need to. 

-Take Time Off
          I know this makes most of us cringe but seriously, if you are facing some crappy stuff in life, stressing yourself over school is NOT worth it! Taking time off is so valuable in helping you to regroup and make it through. Your kiddos will continue to learn every day with all you are dealing with. Life lessons can be far more valuable than textbook lessons! Keep some educational DVD's and games on hand so even if you take a break from the bookwork, they still have something school related to do.

-Work Ahead
           Those days you have that are super good?? Work ahead! Do some extra lessons, freeze a meal, etc. 

-Ask for Help
           I know not everyone has family or friends that can help but if you do have a support system outside your home, reach out to them. Have someone take your children for a few hours, let them bring you a meal or simply have them over if you need someone to talk to or pray with. Sometimes just having someone there to talk to and share the burden with can give us the strength to  make it through the day.

Have you found yourself faced with a hard situation during your school year? If so, what did you do to make it through?

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
Double O Farms
Simple Living Mama
Fried Clams and Sweet Tea
This Sweet Life
A Net In Time
Counting Pinecones
Some Call It Natural
Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Debbie's Homeschool Corner

Monday, April 6, 2015

Real Life Homeschooling Blog Hop

I'm joining up with a group of homeschooling bloggers this week to talk about Real Life Homeschooling. This topic can take on so many different meanings so I encourage you to check out the graphic at the bottom of this post to see what others are sharing about as well.

In the coming days, I plan to share about what our homeschooling life is like and what it isn't. I also want to give you an insight on what our homeschooling looks like when life gets tough & unpredictable.

In the mean time, if you have any questions about homeschooling or about our life specifically, please feel free to leave a question in the comments as I'd love to devote a post to answer questions as well!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop
Every Bed of Roses
Ben and Me
Footprints in the Butter
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Counting Our Blessings
Homeschooling for His Glory
Ozark Ramblings
Chestnut Grove Academy
 Farm Fresh Adventures
For This Season
Unexpected Homeschool
 As We Walk Along the Road
Growing in His Glory
Homeschool Coffee Break
Daily Life
There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Proverbial Homemaker
ElCloud Homeschool

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter!

He is Risen!!!

I just wanted to share with you one of my favorite songs that reminds me of Easter. I was going to share the original music video until I saw these 2 boys from the Philippines singing & playing this song that moved me to tears.

Have a blessed Easter my friends!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Rice Krispie Easter Egg Treats

 I thought it would be fun to make an Easter treat we hadn't done before. We turned your typical rice krispie recipe into Easter eggs with a hidden surprise in the middle. You'll also need some plastic eggs (1 per child is fine). If you have any fun spring-like sprinkles or candy decorations, grab those too.

I used the regular rice krispie recipe:
6 c rice krispies (off brand is what we used)
1 bag of mini marshmallows (my bag was 10 oz)
4 Tbsp butter

Melt the butter then add the marshmallows, stirring until melted. Stir in the rice krispies.

From there, I took the pot of goo & put it in the middle of the table with spoons for all the kids to be able to work on this at the same time. The kids had already sprayed their plastic eggs with some non-stick cooking spray so they were ready to go.

We discovered quickly that adding a little crisco or cooking spray to their fingers helped the sticky rice krispies not to stick to their fingers so much.

You want to pack rice krispies into both sides of the egg. If you have any little bits of candy lying around, you could put a piece in the middle. We had been to an egg hunt this past weekend, so the kids had some candy sitting around to use. You could skip this step though.

Once you have both sides filled, push the egg together. You want enough inside that it makes it tough to close but you don't want too much where it won't close at all. The kids would snap the eggs shut, then they opened them back up.

This is what it looked like when they opened it back up. They slide out of the eggs effortlessly.

If you have any sprinkles to add, this is where you want to shake some on. We happen to have some that I got marked down last year after Easter. ;)

Tada! Susan displaying one of her finished eggs!

rice krispie easter egg treat, recipe, easter, dessert

I think we got a good dozen and a half out of this. The kids had a lot of fun making these cute treats!

Friday, March 27, 2015

$1 Regal Summer Movies

If you have a Regal Cinema near you, check out this summertime movie deal for your family! They show 2 movies a week where admission is only $1 per person (check the website for times & locations). Movies are usually G or PG.

Here is the list of movies by week:

Week 1-
  • Nut Job
  • Annie
Week 2-
  • Earth to Echo
  • The Boxtrolls
Week 3-
  • Paddington
  • Turbo
Week 4-
  • Rio 2
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
Week 5-
  • Mr Peabody & Sherman
  • The Book of Life
Week 6-
  • The Night at the Museum- Secret of the Tomb
  • Penguins of Madagascar
Week 7-
  • The Lego Movie
  • Dolphin Tale 2
Week 8-
  • Muppets Mosted Wanted
  • Alexander and the Very Bad Day
Week 9-
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • The SpongeBob Movie

Have you ever participated in this program? Years ago it used to be free but you still can't beat $1 per person for a movie theater experience!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

And the winner is. . .

First off, thank you to all who took the time to enter Melody's giveaway of a Lilla Rose Clip! I wish I could give you each one!

But our winner is Wendy! 

Check your email!

For everyone else, hit up Melody to host an online party to earn free Lilla Rose Products. She is awesome to work with and quick to respond to email.

Lord Heritage HomeSchool Office

As a homeschooling family, we are required to keep a log of our schooling. I recently had the chance to review HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage.

HomeSchool Office Review

HomeSchool Office (HSO) is a web based program that allows you to schedule not only your homeschooling but also your daily home schedule and appointments. You even have the ability to print off schedules, attendance and transcripts! You can access the schedule via your computer, android or apple devices (only via the web, not app related). Not only can you track your current schedule, but you can keep track of your childs progress from year to year.

HSO operates off of a POWER acronym.

Plan- This is the section where you set up your goals and objectives for each student. You plug in their specific info like grade as well as how many hours or days they need to log for their school year.

Order- This is the area where you schedule specific lessons, detail what you want done when (down to the hour), spell out to-do lists (that have nothing to do with school even such as bill paying! And it's all printable)

Work- Here you can manage to-do lists and where the students can log in to check their assignments.  If for some reason they didn't complete something, it can be pushed forward to the next day here.

Evaluate- This is the section where grades & and attendance are kept track of.

Report- This is the area where you can customize your reports. You can also generate transcripts, quarterly reports to include attendance, all in printable format.

When I first logged in, I went to the Team page where I entered each of my children's info. You can even personalize it down to your address, other teachers your children may have (such as from a co-op) and even your friends contact info.

From there, I admit it got overwhelming. There are instructions on setup and a place you can submit questions. Support abounds which is wonderful. But for our family, this planner was just too complex and way more than we needed. I was intending to use it for 4 of my children but it took too much time to implement it so I only used it for 1 child during the time of review.

You have the ability to color code each of your children which makes glancing at the schedule easy when each of them is assigned a specific color. When you have a bunch of kiddos, this function comes in handy!

When building a report, you can select a ton of details to be included such as quarterly start & end dates, attendance, goals & objectives, etc. When entering grades, you have the option to choose if you want them weighted or not.

While I appreciate their Biblical foundation to report building and can appreciate all the options HSO offers, it just wasn't a fit for our busy family. For us, less is more. This program gives you the ability to assign lessons at specific times of the day but we are laid back and my kids do their work in no specific order so we couldn't utilize this function. I would've liked the option for a generic subject and ability to repeat an assignment after only being entered once such as "math" do 1 lesson a day as several of my children's subjects are assigned simply doing 1 or 2 lessons a day. I don't have time to enter specific assignments for all my children in all their subjects. But that is just a personal opinion. For someone who has the time to enter specific info and loves meticulous record keeping, HSO would be a perfect fit!

Pricing is $79 for an annual subscription. You can also try out a free 30 day trial!

HomeSchool Office Review
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SweetLeaf- Organic Stevia Sweetener

I recently had the chance to try out SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Sweetener thanks to Moms Meet.

SweetLeaf has many products from their powdered sweetener as well as their flavored liquid drops.

First off, if you aren't familiar with Stevia, it is an ALL natural sweetener! But the best thing about Stevia is that it doesn't affect your hypoglycemic index! (aka, it doesn't affect your blood sugar like sugar does). I know there are "sweeteners" on the market that state the same claim, but those are only chemical sweeteners that are cancer causing. Stevia is something you can grow on your own and thus is very safe & healthy!

• SweetLeaf Organic Stevia® Sweetener is a Certified Organic, zero-calorie
sweetener made from high-quality stevia leaves.

• With a delicious taste that is sweeter than sugar, SweetLeaf Organic
Stevia Sweetener is perfect for sweetening hot or cold beverages,
cereals, baked goods, desserts, fresh fruit, yogurt, and more.

• SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Sweetener is gluten free, and contains no
artificial ingredients, calories, carbohydrates, or glycemic response,
making it ideal for people managing their blood sugar or calorie intake.

• One packet of SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Sweetener is as sweet as two
teaspoons of sugar.

I also had the chance to try out these sweet drops! A great way to flavor enhance your water. I have a soda stream so I would make some carbonated water and add a few sweet drops to flavor my water. Closest thing you can get to soda!

The stevia packets I added to smoothies I made as well was greek yogurt. The liquid drops were great in coffee. In fact, I even added them to tea as well. The peppermint mocha was great in brownies & hot chocolate. The pumpkin spice was good with some tea or muffins I made.

If you are looking for a HEALTHY alternative to sugar, Sweet Leaf is the way to go!

Connect with SweetLeaf-

 I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lilla Rose Clip Giveaway!

You can imagine in our household there are a LOT of hair accessories! 6 of us girls with fairly long hair, well yes, you will find ties & clips all over the place. I was recently contacted by Melody to try out a Lilla Rose hair clip.

If you've never heard of this product before, Lilla Rose Flexi Clips are not only a hair clip but a beautifully designed piece that comes in a variety of sizes and colors. You choose the size based on your hair thickness and type of style you want to use it for. The 7 sizes go from mini to mega.

Unlike some hair clips, the Flexi Clip is all one piece so you don't have to worry about losing parts.

The Flexi Clip is strong and durable, made from metal parts casted in zinc or brass. They hold up to a LOT! Each month a new design is introduced. And if for some reason after ordering your clip and you don't like the size, they offer a 90 day sizing guarantee so all you have to do is email them and they will gladly exchange your clip.

Melody offers a special to all her first time customers, buy 3 items and get 1 free! She also LOVES to do Facebook parties. They are so simple for the host. She will take care of setting up the event and all you have to do is invite friends. You get an hour of girl time with hairstyle tips, a flexi clip giveaway and Lilla Rose product demonstrations, all the fun without having clean up your house to host a party! The host even gets to earn free & half price products after $100 worth of sales.

Here are photos of my girls & I wearing this clip. I often found it "missing" when I went to use it because one of my girls snagged it to wear! We all loved how simple it was to do up our hair and it held it really well too!

My sweet 3 yr old even rocked the clip!

So are you ready to order and/or win your own clip! Stop by Melody's site to check out all the clips and order your own. Don't forget to check out her Facebook page as well!

a Rafflecopter giveaway I was provided a flexi clip free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write an honest review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own and those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Alphabet Song Game

My preschooler loves to sing her ABC's and has been actively working on learning to recognize each letter. She was excited recently to be able to review Alphabet Song Game from The Critical Thinking Co.

Alphabet Song Game is available as a windows download. It can also be put on Apple and Android devices. I received this as a windows download which was very easy and quick to install on my laptop. (You need to have Windows 8, 7 or Vista).

The game opens with a simple click to the icon on the desktop. Once the game opens, you have an option to choose a lesson about uppercase letters, lowercase letters or mixed case letters.

As your cursor highlights a lesson, a box on the right hand side gives a description of what the game entails and how many letter choices there are in that game. Each lesson gets progressively more challenging. Also on this screen you can see the score your child got for each lesson. Keep in mind though it only keeps track for one child so if you have multiple children using it, the score that is shown is from whoever last did that lesson. My preschooler as well as my nephews both used this program and I didn't bother keeping track of who had what score.

Once you click on a lesson, a screen pops up with a gal on the one side and the letters coming on the screen as she sings the ABC song. Once she's done singing, you then have letters displayed on the screen. Depending on the lesson you are on will determine how many letters to choose from. In the higher lessons, some of the letters will also be displayed backwards or upside down.

The goal is for the child to click on the letters in the correct order. As they click on the correct letter, it then goes up top with the other letters until the entire alphabet is up top. One thing I noticed is if they clicked on the wrong letter nothing happened. I would've liked some sort of sound to be heard when they chose the wrong letter so they knew it was wrong. Otherwise my daughter sometimes thought she wasn't using the mouse correctly or wasn't hitting the button to click on it not knowing she had chose the wrong letter.

This game can be played in just a matter of minutes. My 3 year old asked to play it several times a day. My nephews ages 3 and 5 also played this. Even though it's a simple game, it really does help them learn to identify their letters through repeatedly playing the game. While my daughter hasn't gotten too far into the upper lessons yet, I can see how in time she will eventually need the more challenging lessons. Just in the time she has used this game, I can see she is able to identify her letters much more quickly compared to before she used this game.

I loved the simplicity of the game and that she is able to do this on her own! It's also available free at the time of this writing so go check it out!

Connect with The Critical Thinking Co. via:

Critical Thinking Company Review
Crew Disclaimer

Friday, March 13, 2015

Trisomy Awareness Month

March is national Trisomy awareness month, with the 13th specifically set aside for Trisomy 13 awareness day. Perfectly fitting since this is the 3rd month, and Trisomy 13 consists of 3 of the 13th chromosome, aka 3-13.

For those not familiar with any of the Trisomy diagnosis', there is Patau's Syndrome which is Trisomy 13, Edwards Syndrome which is Trisomy 18 and Downs Syndrome which is Trisomy 21.

My sweet Noah had Trisomy 13 which is the rarest of the Trisomies & always fatal. This occurs in approximately every 1 in 10,000 live births. Statics are hard to gather on the actual rate of occurrence of Trisomy 13 as 95% of these babies are miscarried early on or stillborn (which makes Noah's Story even more amazing at how he defeated the odds!).

The 13th chromosome is responsible for the development of the body's major organs. Since we are only to have 2 of each chromosomes, this obviously has major impact on a Trisomy baby, mainly affecting brain and heart development, though there is often many other abnormalities as well (this can vary with each trisomy baby). This condition is not hereditary nor caused by genetics or anything we did and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent this from happening as it takes place upon conception.  In the words of science, it's a "fluke". Of course as a Christian, I know it wasn't a fluke as God doesn't make mistakes. I don't know why Noah was chosen to have this condition but he was and I look forward to the day I reach Heaven to finally see the big picture.

Though I wouldn't have chosen this path for my son, I am thankful for all I have learned, and continue to learn, from Noah's brief life here on earth (after all, he is still living, just at a different address than mine!) I am thankful for the friendships I've made from walking this road that I wouldn't have had the chance to form otherwise. This journey has been hard, I miss Noah fiercely and I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for the grace of God.

If you have a minute today or anytime during Trisomy awareness month, think of and/or pray for the many families & their precious children who have walked the path of living with Trisomy 13. I say living because even though our children are healed & perfect in Heaven, those of us left behind are forever changed & will always have a piece of our heart missing until the day our children coming running into our arms when we reach Heaven.

I Love you Noah!!!

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