Name Meaning Gifts Review

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Amazing Names by CrossTimber

We think a lot about names and meanings in our house. Both of our girls have specific names for a reason. Clarissa knows the story of her name, but I thought it would be cool to have a gift specifically about her name. I had never heard of CrossTimber- Name Meaning Gifts before this review. When I showed Clarissa the promotional video for Your Amazing Name- Personalized Adventures for Every Name! she was very excited.

In order to personalize a video, CrossTimber emailed me a form to fill out. I was able to send back a letter to Clarissa about why we chose her name, a photograph of Clarissa, and a picture that she drew. After about two weeks, I received an email with a link to Clarissa’s personalized video as well as a pdf of ten pages of activities and name writing practice.

The video is 28 minutes long. I had originally planned to watch the video with Clarissa but ended up needing to feed the baby so she watched it and I listened to it. I really enjoyed the message that God had a plan for Clarissa and really knew her. Benjamin the Pencil says and spells Clarissa’s name several times. I also really enjoyed that there was so much scripture used throughout the video.

The first time that Clarissa saw the video she wasn’t thrilled. She thought the video seemed babyish. I think the main problem was that she was upset about her picture. She didn’t like that the pencil drew on her picture and folded it into a rocket ship. A different day, I was able to sit down and watch the entire video with her. She liked it much better the second time and said it was funny. She really enjoyed Mr. Owl and all of his puns.

I thought the animation was well done for a kid’s video. Clarissa’s first name and last name were both spoken and written on the video several times. Her name was written both in print and cursive, which she isn’t super familiar with. Some of the scripture is written as well. A younger child will not be able to read the scripture independantly. But most of the scripture is also spoken, so they will still benefit from hearing the words.

Clarissa really enjoys receiving mail in real life. She thought it was cool to receive mail in her video. There was a letter to her written by Mommy and Daddy. Mr Owl brought it to Benjamin the Pencil for Clarissa. The envelope had the sender in the upper left corner and also had her full name and address in the middle right, just like a real letter envelope would. I like that it was helping to teach her the way a letter would be addressed. The letter was read with expression and she enjoyed it. I think she would have preferred hearing the letter read in either my or Tim’s voice though.

This would be a great gift for kids eight and under. I don’t think older kids would appreciate the animation. CrossTimber offers several personalized name gifts in addition to the video. You can read about what other families thought of their name gifts here. CrossTimber is also holding a giveaway for a free Amazing Name Video or DVD.

Your Amazing Name - Personalized Adventures for EVERY name! {CrossTimber - Name Meaning Gifts Reviews}

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Kregel Book Review

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Clarissa and I read books together everyday. Usually I read them aloud to her and later she will go back and “read” them to herself. She has a great memory and she is learning to decode words so she does a decent job with the books we have already read together. I follow several different book lists and am always looking for something new. I especially like a book that is fun to read but also educational so I signed up to review The Goldtown Beginnings Series by Kregel Publications.

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I like that both books are easy to read. They are marketed for ages 6-8, and I feel like emerging readers could actually read these books independantly. The chapters are short. The font is easy to read. There are some black and white pictures on a couple of pages of each chapter. I also like that there are some nonfiction text features in this book, even though it is historical fiction. The beginning of the book has a table of contents as well as a page of new words that kids might not know (glossary). I really liked that the vocabulary words were in the beginning in of the book to be introduced before the story instead of at the end. At the end of the book, there is a short section about the history.

The first book in the series is Jem Strikes Gold. Jem (Jeremiah) is almost 8 and his little sister Ellie (Ellianna) is almost 6. They live with Mama and Pa in a tent by the river where they have a gold claim. Pa works with an old neighbor named Strike to pan for gold. But Mama makes more money selling pies and doing laundry for people in town. The rich boy in town named Will causes trouble for Jem a few times in the story.

Clarissa wasn’t really excited about the story until the dog showed up and then she didn’t want me to stop reading. In the book, Mama was adamantly opposed to keeping the dog that Strike found until the dog helps Jem with his problems with the rich kid, Will. I liked that Jem and Ellie came from a good, Christian family. The siblings got along well and worked together to help their family. The book also brought up some great discussions about The Gold Rush, why someone would live in a tent, poverty, a one room schoolhouse, and what a dog needs to eat.

The second book is called Jem’s Frog Fiasco. Nugget, the dog, has been with Jem and Ellie for a few weeks now. The family is still poor so it is a struggle to feed the dog. Jem decides that he needs a job so that he will have enough money to buy meat from the butcher to feed Nugget. The cafe owner in town tells him that he wants to add frog legs to his menu, so he will pay Jem five cents per frog he catches.

Jem and Ellie have a fight while catching bullfrogs at the pond because Jem thinks Ellie is too loud and scaring the frogs away. Jem tells Ellie to go home and she leaves. Jem has a very successful afternoon catching frogs. When he gets home, he finds out that Ellie never made it home. Everyone goes to look for her. Eventually, Jem finds her in a coyote hole with help from Nugget, the dog. This story would be a great conversation starter about money, responsibilities in a family, and sibling relationships.

When we finished the second book, Clarissa asked if there were more. The next two books in the series are scheduled to release in March. The publisher website also provides enrichment materials in the form of activity guides, lapbooks, and coloring pages to go along with these stories. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco {Kregel Publications Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Channie’s Review

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With a new baby in the house, I was looking for school type things for Clarissa to work on that would not require a lot of supervision from me. Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks allowed us to do just that. We chose to review Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words and Neat Numbers.

We used Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words for our reading practice this month. Each flashcard is fairly large and has room for the printed sight word as well as a place to trace the same sight word. The paper is sturdy and can be reused several with a dry erase marker. Clarissa would read the word. If she didn’t know the word already, I would tell her what the word was and she would repeat it to me. Then, she would use a dry erase marker and trace the sight word. Finally, she would read the word again. She has learned quite a few sight words this way and I think we will continue to use a few cards each day. With 100 sight words to choose from, it gives her a solid foundation in reading.

The second item we requested was Neat Numbers, which we planned to use for Math. You could call this a workbook or a paper pad. The front part of the workbook has a page, front and back for each number 1-20. The front of the page is for tracing. The back is for writing the numbers on your own. The next section is adding or subtracting with pictures. This part was frustrating for Clarissa because each side of the page was the exact same problem. She was bored easily with both of these sections. Though she did appreciate that there were several pictures of animals in the book. The third section was just addition and subtraction without pictures. It also had several different problems on the same page so Clarissa liked that better.

In addition to the two items we requested, Channies also sent us Big Block Alphabet to try. There was a piece of cardstock with a printed alphabet on one side and a cursive alphabet on the other. Clarissa was actually very excited to trace the cursive side. The workbook itself was really just a pad of paper to practice writing letters, which Clarissa did a couple of times.

Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words were Clarissa’s favorite of the three items we used. She thought the other two were a little babyish and they may have been too easy for first grade (they are listed as PK – K). I think if you have a child who needs the repetition of copying letters and numbers, this would be a great product though. There were several products available to review. You can read about the experience of other families here.

Alphabet, Number & Sight Word Dry Erase, Neat Numbers & Page a Day 2 Didgit Multiplication. {Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks Reviews}

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Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Review

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I heard author MJ Thomas on a podcast this spring and I was really excited about what he had to say. When one of his sons was in about second grade, he had to write a book report but couldn’t find a book that he was excited about. He asked his dad to write one for him. So MJ Thomas set out to write a book that would not only entertain his son, but teach him about his faith through making Bible stories come to life in a historical context. Thus, his series, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls was born. I was disappointed that my local library did not carry these books, but I put it on my list of books to read with Clarissa.

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I was so excited to see Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) and Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) of the series published by WorthyKid Books as an option to review this fall. The timing wasn’t great because it was during the time that Tiffany was born. But I read the description to Clarissa and she was really excited about the books. I knew that we would still be reading at bedtime, so I asked for them. I am so glad that I did!

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd’s Stone (Book 5) follows siblings Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank as they spend a month with their Great Uncle Solomon who is an archeologist. They travel through time to explore the story of David and Goliath. On their journey, they have to follow clues to solve a message given to them by the angel Michael. They only have four days to solve the puzzle!

I love that Clarissa was able to see some of the historical context from the Bible story and that the actual story seemed true to what the Bible says. It also brought up some great discussions for us. For example, David originally told Mary that she could not go with him and Peter to deliver food to his older brothers. The reason was because Mary is a girl and girls are not allowed on the battlefield, which was surprising to Clarissa because we just spent four years on an army base where there were definitely female soldiers. Also, in the book David had sisters living at home, which I had not really thought about before since the Bible focuses on the brothers. David also talks about a poem he wrote (Psalm 23), which I thought was great because that is on our list of things to memorize for November. So now Clarissa has a context for that as well.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion’s Roar (Book 6) was also wonderfully written. This time, Peter, Mary, and Hank go to ancient Babylon. They land in a temple of the Babylonian God Marduk. There is a statue (idol) in the temple and the high priest tells Peter and Mary that they need to bow down and worship the idol. Peter and Mary refuse because they will only worship the One True God. This makes the high priest (and his pet raven) very angry. They have to escape being captured with the help of the angel Michael.

The book teaches about architecture (ziggurat) and history (7 wonders of the ancient world) along the way. Peter and Mary escape to the hanging gardens where they meet Hannah who also refuses to worship idols. Hannah also happens to be the granddaughter of Shadrach. While visiting her grandfather’s spice shop, Peter and Mary heard the story of the fiery furnace in person. They also met Daniel. I always forget that Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den is several decades after the fiery furnace. In this book, Peter and Mary eventually get thrown into the lion’s den too and they, along with Daniel, are protected by their angel friend Michael.

I like that at the end of both books there is a list of chapters in the Bible that correspond to the story so that you can compare the book to the actual Bible story.

We have only read books five and six in the series so far. The stories stand alone, so you can read them out of order. Clarissa really wants us to get the first four in the series because she enjoyed them so much. While reading these books, book 7 was also published. I am excited to announce that the publisher is running a giveaway. You can enter to win signed copies of all seven books in the series by clicking here. There will be three winners.

We did these books as a read aloud, but I think they would be great reading for a younger elementary student who is a confident reader. The books are marketed for ages 6-9 and claim they are written on a first through third grade reading level. I think a first grader would have a hard time reading this independantly though. There are a few black and white pictures in each chapter to help engage your younger readers.

Depending on your curriculum goals, these books could be used for Bible, Reading, or History. These also provide some great discussion starters about Bible stories and imagining what it would be like if we went into the Bible story or which stories we would like to become a part of. I am excited to read the rest of the books. I look forward to being able to read book 7 near Christmas time since it is about the birth of Jesus. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.

Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5) & The Lion's Roar (Book 6) {WorthyKids Books Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Brain Blox Review

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With anticipation of a new baby in the house this fall, I was trying to find things for Tim and Clarissa to do together while Tim was home for paternity leave. They really enjoy building things and playing games, so I thought that Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks by Brain Blox would be a great choice to review this month.

The day the Brain Blox arrived in the mail, Clarissa wasted no time. She opened the box immediately and got to work building different structures and pictures. She started with some suggestions from the instructions and then began creating things from her imagination. She worked for two hours straight and was upset when I told her that she had to stop for bath time. She was also upset that I would not let her bring the Brain Blox in the bathtub with her.

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As the days have progressed, Clarissa has continued to enjoy creating her own pictures. She has also enjoyed creating structures illustrated on the website.

The Brain Blox website has some amazing suggestions. There are pdf downloads of structures and pictures to make. There are also logic puzzles included where the puzzle shows where to start and then suggests moving a certain number of blocks to create something new. There are also a few curriculum idea downloads, especially for math.

My mom was surprised that Brain Blox were simply wooden blocks, they do not interlock like other systems. But Clarissa does not seem to mind that. She just likes the freedom to create what she wants. She was also excited about the suggestion in one of the downloads that she is allowed to decorate her Brain Blox so she can for example, create different characters to act out a story. I think she will be decorating some of her Brain Blox with faces in the near future so that she can use them to act out stories better.

For the most part, Clarissa really enjoyed Brain Blox. Some of the pictures were difficult for her six year old self to recreate so that was frustrating to her. But she really enjoyed the ability to make up her own creations. I think this is something she will use for several years. I would like to try some of the math and reading suggestions once Tiffany (the baby) is a little older and we are in a good groove with school again. We will probably use the Brain Blox to spell sight words and as math manipulatives. You can read about how other families used Brain Blox here.

Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks {Brain Blox Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Our favorite books for six year old girls

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One thing that has been consistent for Clarissa over the years is that she loves books. When she was 2 and 3 years old, she would tell me that she could not go to bed or turn out her light yet because “I’m still reading!” She is actually starting to read books on her own now, but for the most part, I still read to her at least a half hour each day. These are some of her favorite books right now.

  • Clarissa still enjoys the Berenstain Bears. We like that there are so many different books so you can read based on the season or whatever we are working on in school and not get bored.
  • Fancy Nancy is still a favorite as well. She likes that Nancy is in first grade like her and has a little sister. She also likes that Nancy uses fancy words and wears costumes like she does.
  • One of the books we earned during a summer reading program this summer is The Princess in Black. It is a series of six books (so far). Princess Magnolia has her own castle and friends. But she also has a monster alarm ring that goes off and tells her when the monsters leave Monster Land to attack the goats. She has to rescue the goats and send the monsters back to Monster Land. None of her friends know that she is the Princess in Black, they are just confused about why she randomly leaves events. It’s a cute series.
  • Another new discovery this summer was Katie Woo. Katie Woo has great adventures with her friends Pedro and Jojo. She’s just an everyday kid with friends who goes to school and does normal stuff. But Clarissa really enjoys these books as well.

Easy Grammar Review

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Clarissa really just started to read this summer, so we haven’t focused much on grammar yet for her schooling. Then I saw that Easy Grammar Systems had a first grade curriculum available for review. We decided to try Easy Grammar: Grade 1.

We received the Teacher Edition for Easy Grammar: Grade 1. There is also a Student Edition available, but if you only have one student you don’t really need the Student Edition, as your child can write in the Teacher Edition. If you have multiple children of the same grade level, you would need to buy the Student Edition for them to work in though.

The Teacher Edition was very helpful. It had several sections. The first part explains the different concepts that will be covered in each lesson: capitalization, punctuation, lesson, and sentence. The next section gives some suggestions for teaching each concept. Then there is a Scope and Sequence included for each concept. Each day also has a more specific lesson plan listed for each day. The Teacher Edition concludes with the answer key. The answers for each lesson are written out for you.

The Student Workbook is in the middle of the Teacher Edition (before the answer key). It has 180 days of work for each of the four concepts: capitalization, punctuation, lesson, and sentence.

There were several things that I appreciate about this curriculum. First, it is predictable. Clarissa knows that there are going to be four parts to each lesson and they will come in the same order each day. Second, it builds appropriately for the child’s development and grade level. At least for first grade, it starts off easy and gets more complex. The student has the option to trace the sentences and words in the beginning which is appropriate for the beginning of first grade. By lesson 50, the student needs to copy the sentence, which they should be able to do a few months in to first grade. In lesson 90, the student starts to combine sentences, which they can learn to do halfway through first grade.

Clarissa actually enjoys this grammar curriculum, which is great. I didn’t know what she would think since we have not really done much in the way of grammar before this review. She thought it was pretty easy to learn and each lesson was quick. The first few lesson only take about five minutes to complete so it builds her confidence and doesn’t take long. She was also happy that there were things to trace so she didn’t really have to think about how to write each letter. For a beginning writer, that is a big deal and makes the lesson more enjoyable.

Because Clarissa and I both liked this curriculum, we’re going to continue using it for the remainder of  first grade. There are 180 lessons in all so that will take us through the entire school year. Because Easy Grammar Systems makes multiple grade levels of this curriculum, this may be something that we can stick with for several years.

We worked on the first grade curriculum, but there were several other grade levels and other grammar curriculum available from this company. You can read about the experience of other families and grade levels here.

Easy Grammar, Daily GRAMS & Easy Grammar Ultimate {Easy Grammar Systems Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Clarissa’s birthday museum adventure

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Every time we take Tim to work, we see the Washington Monument in the distance. Clarissa gets really excited and points and shouts, “Look! It’s the tall tower!” When we asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday adventure she said she wanted to see the Dinosaur Museum and the Tall Tower.

Her adventure day was rainy. And we told her that we could go and see the outside of the Tall Tower but the inside would not be open until next month. So she decided that we could skip the Washington Monument this time and go back in the fall so we could see the whole thing.

We started the day by taking the same bus that Tim takes to work every morning. Then we took the metro into Washington DC. Our first stop was the National Air and Space Museum. Clarissa loved it. She thought the space shuttles were amazing and she enjoyed the kid exhibits that taught about friction and flight. She was even able to climb into a cockpit and pretend to fly an airplane. Some of the exhibits in the kid section were out of order and they are renovating the museum right now, so we will probably need to go back again to see everything.

We crossed the National Mall and saw the Capital Building on one side and the Washington Monument on the other, so she did get to see the Tall Tower from a distance.

Next, we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Clarissa was able to see her dinosaurs. But she also really liked both the mammal and bird exhibits to see real animals instead of just bones. She was really excited about the dioramas in the fossil section as well. We didn’t head upstairs to see the bugs because we were getting hungry, so I’m sure we’ll be back.

We went to Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. All three of us enjoy the food there so we knew it would be a good choice.

After lunch, Clarissa asked for one more museum. We decided to the try the International Spy Museum. I’m not going to lie. This museum is pricey. Clarissa was free because she was 6 but the adult prices are over $20, even with a discount. Clarissa loved it, so I guess it was worth it. But Tim and I would have preferred to go by ourselves to really enjoy the experience.

When you go into the museum, the staff hands you a lanyard that you scan into the computer. The computer gives you a secret identity. Then, they usher you into a room to watch a movie about being a spy before releasing you into the general museum. There were a few computers to get clues and work on your mission. However, it was a really crowded, rainy, Friday in the summer, so we couldn’t get near the computers. The exhibits were very informative, but Clarissa blew through them because it required a lot of reading and she just isn’t there yet. So we looked at some pictures and spy stuff, but didn’t really get the full experience.

The next floor wasn’t quite as crowded, so we did a little bit with the computers and reviewed some clues. Clarissa was excited to find her clue and scan her lanyard. The exhibits were very informative and had video as well as text on the walls. I think this museum is geared toward tweens/teens and adults. Clarissa wasn’t afraid of anything at the museum, but I think she would have gotten way more out of it if she was older.

After the third museum, the pregnant lady was pretty tired, so we headed back. We took the metro back to the Pentagon and then the bus back home. On the walk home she said, “This was the best day ever!”

We wanted to watch a spy movie but couldn’t think of one that was really appropriate for Clarissa (other than Bolt which she’s seen a hundred times) so we ended up watching some White Collar. She was really into it after the museum so we’ll have to find a spy movie for her.

Memoria Press Review

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Clarissa and I love books. There are three summer reading programs in our area that we are eligible for and we completed the reading requirements for the entire summer of reading in less than two weeks! So I was very excited when we were given the opportunity to review a literature program. We received The StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key and the More StoryTime Treasures Student Guide and Answer Key which is the entire first grade literature curriculum from Memoria Press.

I will say that we did not use Memoria Press for kindergarten so Clarissa is at a different reading level than what is probably suggested. For the beginning of The StoryTime Treasures, which is the first grade curriculum, students should be able to read most of these literature books. We completed the first unit, which was four weeks of Little Bear. Clarissa was not ready to read this book on her own. So for our review, I read aloud the book to her and she completed the activities that went along with the story.

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Clarissa really enjoyed the story of Little Bear. She was frustrated that the curriculum wanted us to take so long to finish the book as she would rather read the book in one sitting, even if it is 63 pages. She didn’t like breaking it down into one chapter per week. So if your child would rather read the entire book in one sitting, this curriculum may be frustrating for your family.

I did like that there were several activities for each chapter of Little Bear. The activities were also similar from week to week so that Clarissa kind of knew what to expect before I explained what we would do that day. On the first day, there was come copy work. Even though Clarissa could not read most of the words on her own, I would read them to her, she would repeat them, and she would still write them down for handwriting practice. The second day had comprehension questions about the story. I would ask Clarissa the questions and transcribe her answers in the student guide.

Day three was a section called Let’s Talk, which had some great open ended discussion questions to help Clarissa relate the story passage to something in her life. For example, “Have you ever had a surprise party? Talk about a time someone surprised you.” I liked that it was something to make her think instead of just recall questions. Day four was Let’s Learn and had some kind of grammar lesson. During Little Bear, we learned about capitalization and punctuation marks. Day Five was Just for Fun so there was usually something to draw and write about.

I also appreciated that the student guide was spiral bound. It made it easier to flip pages and not have to tear pages out and lose them. The teacher edition was helpful because it had a picture of the student edition on the lesson page. There were also helpful hints, phonics ideas, and words to introduce to your child listed on the lesson pages. I did really like the activities that went along with the story so I think I will go back to this in the winter or spring when Clarissa is a more fluent reader. The list of books is great and filled with classics like Make Way for Ducklings, Frog and Toad are Friends, Stone Soup, Miss Rumphius, The Story about Ping, and Caps for Sale.

Several lessons reference Classical Phonics as well as Phonics Flashcards which are on the list for Memoria Press Kindergarten. So if I were actually going to purchase The StoryTime Treasures, I would purchase Classical Phonics and possibly the flashcards as well. I am interested to read the reviews about the other grade levels to see how they compare to first grade. Read the reviews of other crew members here.

First to Tenth Grade Literature Guides {Memoria Press Reviews}

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Library and Educational Services Review

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When I saw the write up for this vendor my eyes got really big. If chosen for this review, we would get to choose one Lifehouse Theater CD, one title from the Who Was… series, and $60 of whatever books from the Reinforced Hardcover Nonfiction Library Binding we wanted from the Library and Educational Services LLC website. This review really was a homeschool mom’s dream. It was hard to narrow down our favorite choices.

 

We listened to The Emperor’s New Clothes for our Lifehouse Theater CD and really enjoyed it.

I read this story as a kid, but Clarissa had never heard it. This version of the Emperor’s New Clothes definitely had more Christian values than I remember from the book that I read as a child, which I really appreciated.

Ned is raised by his Christian aunt and uncle who make him see the king and confess that he has stolen/eaten pomegranates from the king’s trees. As a punishment, Ned must work for the king as a page boy. In order to make himself sound more important the king changes his own title to emperor. He doesn’t ever remember Ned’s name and is constantly calling him something different. Eventually, some royal tailors come to town and promise to make the king new fashionable clothes but “only those who are very intelligent or fit for their jobs can see the special magical cloth.”

Naturally, the king and all of the advisers keep saying that they can see the wonderful clothes when they can’t because they don’t want to appear foolish. But Ned knows the king looks ridiculous because he isn’t really wearing any clothes. In the end, Ned is promoted to Royal Truth Teller because the king can trust his opinions. The king even writes letters to the nearby kingdoms to warn them about the tailors so that they will not make the same mistake that he did, even though he may appear foolish.

Clarissa and I had some great conversations about this story. It was nice to be able to pause the story to explain things to her. At first, she thought it was too long so I would recommend breaking it up into smaller sections for younger children. It would be great to listen to on short car trips while running errands. But in the end, she really enjoyed the story and wants to explore some of the other stories in the series.

Since we moved to Northern Virginia this summer, we chose Where is the White House? for our Who Was…? selection. I wasn’t sure if Clarissa would be super interested because it seems like it would be way above her reading level. However, as a read aloud, she loved it! She would have been content for me to read the entire 108 page book in one sitting, but since it was broken up into chapters we read it over several days.

There were several black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout the book. She also thought the stories about who decorated each part of the White House were interesting. Several sections of the White House have been rebuilt because of fire or because someone wanted a change. For example, during the War of 1812, Dolley Madison saved the portrait of George Washington before escaping the British. It was almost dinner time when they arrived, so the soldiers actually ate the dinner prepared at the President’s table before setting fire to the White House. Now we have to make a field trip to the White House this fall so that we can see what we read about.

The last part of the review was the hardest to decide. Library and Educational Services LLC had so many resources to choose from. For review purposes, I was to choose up to $60 of books from their Reinforced Hardcover Nonfiction Library Binding section. But they also offer paperback books and other resources at wholesale prices. You really do get a lot of books for the price that you pay. The website was laid out very nicely in that you could look up books by either subject, grade level, or type of binding.

Because I have already made a tentative plan of what Clarissa and I are going to study for first grade, I was able to go to the first grade books and choose books based on our intended curriculum. Otherwise I think that there were so many choices that it would have been hard to choose what I wanted. They had joke books, biographies, general social studies, animals, and general science available for first grade. Each grade level had quite the selection.

Clarissa was so excited to receive these books in the mail that we have already read most of them before we are studying these topics. She was really excited about the books about American landmarks. The books were actually written on a first grade level so they had simple words that made it easy for her to understand the material. There were actual photographs in the books so she could easily recognize what was happening. It was just enough information to get her excited about the topics. We have since been to our local library to read more books about landmarks because she was so excited about these books.

I found the Good for Me series about food groups in the second grade section so the words are a little bigger and the text is more complex. But I really like the way the books are laid out. They have photographs, charts, bold words, and headings so it is easy to teach the different parts of a nonfiction text.

I am excited to read the reviews from the other crew members to see which books they ended up with for their students. I think that we will order books from Library and Educational Services LLC in the future.

Wholesale Books for Your Homeschool {Library and Educational Services LLC Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Bible Letter of the Week Review

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Clarissa really enjoys Bible stories. She also gets really excited when we do crafts or activities about these stories. I was debating what I wanted to do with her as far as a  Bible curriculum for first grade. I was excited to see Bible Letter of the Week Curriculum Notebook on the list of choices from Crafty Classroom.

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Bible Letter of the Week Curriculum Notebook is marketed as a preschool curriculum. There are 26 weeks of lessons, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each week has four days of lessons with several activities to complete each day. There is a Bible story theme for each week as well as a Bible verse to memorize, practice writing each letter, activities to practice each letter sound, as well as some math activities for each week.

Clarissa has really enjoyed reading and discussing the Bible stories, the coloring pages and crafts, games, and math pages. She is also practicing her handwriting. I started off by supplementing this to our reading program and using this twice per week so that she would not be overwhelmed by the amount of work that was expected of her. Halfway through the letter A, she told me that she wanted to do this program every day instead of twice per week so we changed what we were doing.

Clarissa was most excited about the Alphabet Quilt. Each week, there is a square that shows the letter of the week, a picture of the Bible story, and even the Bible verse. She is excited to build this quilt as the year progresses. I like this aspect of the program because it will be a good review of what Bible stories and verses we have studied throughout the year. At one point she said to me, “Can we keep this quilt forever?”

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I like that the activities are similar each week so that Clarissa knows what is expected of her. She builds confidence with the repetition and also feels like she can do it herself without as much prompting from me. I like that the numbers get bigger for the math as the year progresses. So it makes sense to complete the weeks in order so that your math builds. I also was able to plot out the school year so that “J for Jesus” will fall in December for Christmas and “R for Resurrection” can be in April for Easter so it would make sense to do this curriculum over the course of an entire school year.

I think this would be a great curriculum for families with multiple children because you can pick and choose which activities to do with each child. You can do the main things the same with the Bible stories, crafts, and letters. But you can pick and choose the other activities (there are about 20 activities for each week to choose from). So the older kids can be included in the weekly Bible stories and memory verses. Your younger elementary kids won’t be completely bored with the math or the handwriting and letter activities. Your preschoolers and kindergartners would probably love the whole thing but you can pick and choose based on their developmental level.

The Crafty Classroom offers several different curriculum including reading, math, and even US geography. This may have been Clarissa’s favorite program that we reviewed all year so I am interested to see what other families thought of the various curriculum that they reviewed. I think we will be using Crafty Classroom in the future.

Hands-on, Low-prep and Ready to Go Learning - Tots to 3rd Grade {Crafty Classroom Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Learning Dynamics Review

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Clarissa and I did kindergarten together at home this year. She loves math and wants me to read to her all day long. But when it comes to learning how to read she gets excited about a new program for about a week and then gets frustrated that it is too hard and wants to stop.  We have tried a few different programs without success. So I was excited to try the Learning Dynamics Reading Program produced by Learning Dynamics.

The program recommends 15 minutes per day, at least 3 days per week. It starts pretty slow by learning one letter sound each in the first five lessons before you review them together in lesson 6. Even though Clarissa already knows most of her letters and sounds, I chose to start at lesson 1. I thought this would build her confidence, and I was correct. She actually really enjoyed the first few lessons and would ask to do more than one per day.

Each lesson had a few different components. There were three different flash cards for each letter. She enjoyed looking at those and collecting the small cards. Though eventually she invented her own games with them. There is an alphabet song that is supposed to be played at every lesson. Clarissa isn’t very big into kid songs, so halfway through, she had her hands over her ears. The same thing happened with each individual letter song so after the first couple of lessons, I didn’t bother with the songs. She was really excited about the letter hunts at the end of each lesson.

M was the first letter. At the end of that lesson, we were to walk around the house and find things that start with the “mmm” sound. She received an M&M for each word she found. The same thing happened with p for popcorn. She also enjoyed coloring the words that started with the correct letter. I think she also appreciated that it was only one page of written work each day. She had to write one row of lower case letters and color a few pictures so it was quick and easy.

By the end of the review period she was getting frustrated with the coloring page. She wanted to color in all of the pictures. So I made her tell me which words started with the correct letter before she started coloring. Then she would tell me which sound the other pictures started with.

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The program comes with four sets of books: blue, red, yellow, and green. She was excited to read those books before we got to them. So we definitely previewed each set of books before she was supposed to read them herself.

I am excited to report that we finally found a reading program that Clarissa enjoys! She said to me at one point, “I like reading now!” and she is getting to be a better reader everyday. After lesson 6, there is practice with blending words each day. She is pretty good at blending the three letter words now. She will read the simple books too. The first couple of books were single words on a page. It took a few books before she was supposed to read sentences, which was great, because by then she was ready.

I appreciated that each book had a list of words at the beginning of the book. In this way, we were able to practice the words before we actually tried to read the book. Clarissa already was familiar with most of the words before she saw them in the book so she didn’t have to spend as much time sounding out each word in the book. She enjoyed reading more that way. There are also comprehension questions to ask at the end of each book to make sure that your reader understood what they read and didn’t just sound out the words.

This video is book 7 of the blue book series. She has only completed lesson 18 of 41 in Lesson Manual one.

The lesson manual spells out which books you are supposed to read with each lesson. Books 1-13 are for lessons 9-33. Lessons 34-42 are two vowel lessons, where you will finish reading the blue set of books (books 14-23). Then there is a second part of the lesson manual that goes more in depth with advanced sounds and the other three set of books. I think it will take us several months to finish this program.

I am excited that most of the pieces of this program are reusable. The only part I will need to replace is the student workbook when I need to teach my second daughter to read in a few years. You can read about what other families thought of the program here.

Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Big Bible Science Review

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Clarissa loves science, especially if it has to do with animals or experiments. Big Bible Science by Christian Focus lets us learn about both. I really appreciate any science curriculum that Clarissa can get excited about that also teaches from a Christian perspective.

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There are several ways that a family could use Big Bible Science. It could be used as a supplement for an elementary science curriculum or as a curriculum itself. There are 21 different experiments on several topics including: gravity, friction, chemistry, plants, animals, water cycle, space, and the human body.

Each experiment has it’s own short chapter in the book and includes scriptures or Bible stories, some background on the science topic covered in the experiment, materials needed, and several activity choices for each topic. I could see using this book as a stand alone science curriculum and moving through it at the pace of one chapter every 1-2 weeks. You could spend time focusing on the scripture and background and do a different activity each day for several days. Or you could use this book as a supplement to any science curriculum, pulling the experiments as they fit in with your current curriculum. I also think that this book would be a good fit for families with multiple children. You can assist younger children and let the older children do more on their own. There is even a list of which experiments children would be able to complete without adult assistance.

In kindergarten, I don’t have a formal science curriculum for Clarissa. Several experiments in this book were appropriate for her to work through. For the purpose of this review, I simply listed them for her and let her pick her favorites. Of course, her favorite was the experiment 13 on animal classification.

We started by learning about the five different classes of animals. Then we read the creation story and focused on Genesis 1:20-25. We were instructed to describe the five classes of animals in the creation story. The second activity was to write the class of animals on the top of an index card and describe their characteristics. For kindergarten, she drew them instead. Clarissa then cut and glued animal pictures to the correct card. The last activity was to create a venn diagram comparing two different classes of animals. She chose animals and reptiles. I simply recorded her responses as we compared the two different classes. I had planned to do this in several days but Clarissa really enjoyed it and so we completed all of the activities in one afternoon!

We will go back to this book later. We usually end up doing unit studies and I think that the experiments in this book are going to be great activities to add to our unit studies for first and second grade. I appreciate that most of the materials needed for the experiments are either things that I already have in my house or are really easy to access. It makes science so much easier to plan and execute.

There were four titles to choose from for this review. To read about other books from a Christian perspective check out the other reviews here.

Big Bible Science, Elizabeth Prentiss, God is Better than Princesses,  God is Better than Trucks. {Christian Focus Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Nothing Book Review

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Clarissa and I are always looking for good books to read. I get especially excited if the book points Clarissa to Jesus. This is one reason we were very excited to review Nothing by Natalee Creech published by Worthy Kids, an imprint of Hatchette Book Group.

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Nothing: Nothing Can Separate You from God’s Love! is a wonderful book based on the scripture Romans 8:38-39, “Nothing can separate us from God’s Love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” The publisher recommends it for ages 4-7, but I think the age range could go wider than that. It’s a great book with a lovely message.

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I love that the simple words in this book remind my daughter that there is nothing that she can do or anything that can happen to her that will make God stop loving her. The pictures are fabulous. There are pictures of space ships and the deep seas, crazy weather, and normal kids.

At the end of the book, I was ready to talk to Clarissa about the message. That it doesn’t matter what she does wrong or what kinds of crazy things happened in her life, God would always love her. And she got this silly look on her face and she said, “Mom! I know that God will always love me!” We didn’t need a long discussion to convince her and that was good for this mama’s heart. If that’s the only thing she learns before she leaves my house, I’ve done my job. I look forward to sharing this book with friends and her Sunday School class at church.

Nothing (Nothing Can Separate You From God's Love) by Natalee Creech {WorthyKids, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Our favorite Easter books for preschool and young elementary

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The two biggest holidays on the Christian calendar are Christmas and Easter (Resurrection Day). I feel like Christmas probably gets more press time than Easter. But we still have a list of books that we read every year in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Day.

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  • Peek-a-Bible The Easter Story is a great lift the flap book that tells the story of Resurrection Day. It starts with Jesus riding into town on a donkey, includes The Last Supper, the garden, Jesus on the cross, and His resurrection.
    The Easter Story is a cute little board book that tells the story with nice pictures and easy sentences.
  • God Gave Us Love is a long conversation between Little Cub and Grandpa about loving someone but not always liking what they do. At the end they talk about how God loves us so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for our sins.
  • God Gave Us Easter is another story about little cub. This time, Papa explains that Easter is even better than Christmas because Jesus died on the cross for us. He also talks a lot about how spring can point us to Jesus. I also really like that Papa explains what it means to listen to God and when Little Cub wakes up in the morning she is excited to report that she heard from God too.
  • Lily’s Easter Party has been one of Clarissa’s favorite books since we bought it when she was two. In this story, Lily invites some of her friends over for a special Easter egg hunt. At the egg hunt, the children are instructed to put the eggs in a basket on the table. Then once all the eggs are found, mom and dad sit down with the kids and open the eggs in order. Each egg has a small object inside that tells the story of Jesus and his Resurrection. This is a great book if you have resurrection eggs, but you can also read it on it’s own.
  • The Parable of the Lily is a story about Maggie who receives a present in the mail in the middle of winter. There were instructions to put the box in a cool dark place and plant it in spring. One day, Maggie accidentally made a mess in the cellar and threw her box into the yard and forgot about it. On Easter morning, she woke up to beautiful lilies in her yard. She was excited about new life. She realized that the gift was from her father and she learned a lesson in forgiveness.
  • Holy Week is a new one for us this year. It is a board book that talks about the names of different emotions and places them with a Bible verse and a picture to tell a different part of the Holy Week story.
  • In The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story, Brother and Sister Bear start the story really excited about all of the candy that will be in their Easter baskets but learn the real story of Easter in Sunday school.
  • We love Little Critter in this house, so Happy Easter Little Critter gets read too, even though they have an Easter bunny and do an egg hunt at the church picnic.

You can read our favorite books about Christmas here.

Homeschool Complete Review

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I really like when what Clarissa and I are studying can tie into to multiple subjects so I was really excited that we were given the opportunity to review Unit Studies (K-6) by Homeschool Complete. Specifically, we chose the first grade unit study Seasons.

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Clarissa is in kindergarten so I knew there would be some things that would be difficult for her to do in a first grade unit study. I do feel like the unit study is labeled correctly. Clarissa could do a lot of the skills needed for the unit, except for the independent reading. It wasn’t a problem though because I just read aloud to her instead.

We really enjoyed this unit study about Seasons. There were four days of lessons. Each day we spent an hour to an hour and a half completing the lesson. This sounds like a long time until you realize that this unit study encompasses all subjects so once you finish your unit study lesson for the day, you are finished with school.

Clarissa’s favorite part of the lesson by far was reading Balto. This chapter book didn’t have a lot of pictures, but the story was engaging so she was excited for me to read it aloud to her each day. This book brought up so many wonderful discussions for us. One of our friends is moving to Alaska soon and so she wanted to learn more about Alaska. She was concerned that her friend would get sick with diphtheria like the children in the book, so we talked about how the vaccinations we receive from the doctor keep us from getting sick. Now she wants to go on a vacation to see all of the statues of Balto that they talk about in the book.

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In addition to reading Balto each day, there was an additional picture book to read each day, one for each season. Clarissa really enjoyed those as well. Her favorite was probably Hot Dog, which we read for summer.Clarissa was interested to learn the science in why there are seasons; that the Earth’s tilt causes it to be warmer or colder because it is closer or further away from the sun.

We did spend some time learning what the words for each season look like. She really enjoyed a game where you had to choose which season you were trying to land on and throw a puff ball to hit your word. We used tally marks to count hits and misses. She was excited to learn how to mark the tally mark for five to make counting faster. Using the calendar and the hundreds chart provided in the unit also really helped Clarissa to reinforce the days of the week as well as how to count by tens to 100.

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Another math concept that Clarissa really enjoyed in this unit study was comparing numbers to see which one was larger. She liked the idea that the alligator would like to eat the most candy. So every single time she wrote greater than or less than, the alligator needed teeth…

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I am looking forward to reading some of the reviews about other unit studies. There were so many to choose from and we enjoyed this one so much that I think we will need to try other titles. There is actually an active coupon code available right now. If you order before 3/31/2019 and use the code: CREW2019 you can receive 10% off your order.

Homeschool Complete K - 4th Grade & Unit Studies {Homeschool Complete Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Our favorite books for three year olds

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When Clarissa was three, she started having opinions about which books we picked from the library. Instead of just choosing whichever book she could reach, she usually had something in mind.

She had three favorite series of books that she kept going back to.

Little Critter
I grew up reading the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer. In fact, my mother kept several of my books for me and so Clarissa has some of my favorite books from when I was a little girl. She enjoyed Little Critter’s adventures and the funny things that he does. He is easy for little kids to relate to. “I made you a sandwich, but I got hungry so I ate it…” His responses remind me of Clarissa, so I enjoy his antics as well.

Gerald and Piggie
I had never heard of Gerald and Piggie before we started attending storytime at the library on post. Gerald is a very cautious elephant and Piggie is his best friend, a very fun pig. They are very different but have many adventures together. I like that each page is dialogue and the stories are funny. They are pretty predictable too and we read them more than once, so I have a few videos of Clarissa “reading” me these books.

God gave us series
Most of these books are about Little Cub and her parents. She has so many questions about things. I like that Mama and Papa explain things in a way that she understands. She learns about how much God loves her, how God made her just for her family, Christmas, Easter, how God made the world. She even learns about things like heaven, angels, and sleep. There is also a wolf pup who learns about being thankful and how God gives us all different families.

Our favorite books about South Korea

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In honor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I thought I would share our favorite children’s book about South Korea. Some of these we own and some we have borrowed from the library (actually all are at the Camp Humphreys Library).

 

One of Clarissa’s favorite books to borrow from the library is Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell. A little girl is adopted from South Korea and comes home to live with her new family in America. She doesn’t know any English but her family quickly learns a few Korean words, specifically “goyangi” because of their pet cat that the little girl loves so much.

We own Bee-Bim-Bop by Linda Sue Park because Clarissa loved it so much when we borrowed it from the library that we read it every day for a week straight and actually had to learn to make bibimbap from the recipe in the book.

Last year, we reviewed Carole P. Roman’s If You were me and lived in… South Korea. I think Clarissa likes it because it talks about some of the places we have visited. I think it gives you some idea of Korean culture as it discusses Korean words for mom and dad, money, school, and sports.

Lately, Clarissa has been interested in Sori’s Harvest Moon Day by Uk-Bae Lee. This story is about a little girl and her family and how they travel to their grandparents’ house for Chuseok, which is one of the two major holidays in South Korea. It is interesting to see how another culture celebrates a holiday to honor ancestors and spend time together.

Another book we borrowed from the library is called The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park. This story is about a boy who lives by the sea. His family has the important job of lighting a fire on the mountain each night if everything is calm. Each mountain has a family to light a fire. This way, the king will know if there are invaders in the land. If the fires are not lit, then the king will send soldiers to help. One day, the boy’s father hurts his ankle and he has to light the fire himself.

The library on post has an entire section of Korean children’s literature. Some of it is Korean folktales and others are books written in Korean. But these are our favorites.

Our favorite books for four year olds

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Clarissa has always been a reader. I have pictures of her looking at books sprawled out on the floor before she could walk. She asks to visit the library often and requests that I read to her several times per day. If I am not available, she says “okay,” and then walks into her room, closes the door, and starts “reading” to herself. These were some of her favorites when she was four years old. Again, we have a lot of series of books on this list. Thought there were a few that were favorites by themselves.

  • At four, Clarissa was pretty much obsessed with Magic School Bus. She watched the show on netflix everyday and has several different books to read. Her favorites were Inside the Human Body and Time of the Dinosaurs. But we pretty much read any Magic School Bus book that we could find.
  • Gigi, God’s Little Princess is a wonderful series of books by Sheila Walsh. Clarissa says that Gigi “reminds her of Fancy Nancy, except that Gigi loves God.” She’s your typical five year old girl who has some crazy adventures with her best friend Frances. She has a cat named Tiara and a dog named Lord Fluffy. Gigi is also very into the color pink.
  • Usborne has several books about the human body. Clarissa really enjoys the lift the flap ones.
  • Gerald and Piggie books by Mo Willems were another favorite. Elephant Gerald and Piggie are best friends but they are so different. Piggie is fun and exciting and Gerald is a little more cautious but they have great adventures together. I also like that all of the books are written entirely in dialog.
  • Little Critter was one of my favorites when I was a little kid. Clarissa loves Little Critter and the crazy adventures that he has with his family. I like that he has a great family and that he is your typical kid. “I tried to make you lunch, but I got hungry…I didn’t forget to use soap, I just don’t like it…”
  • We bought Clarissa Lily’s Easter Party a few years ago to go with her Resurrection Eggs. She pulls the book out several times per year. I can’t put it away with the Easter things. She likes the story of friends having and Easter egg hunt. I like that she is learning more about the different parts of the Resurrection story.
  • I wrote a review about the Planet 316 Bible last year. It is Clarissa’s favorite Bible. She loves that she can use my phone to make the stories come to life. I like it because she is excited about reading Bible stories.

I need to write separate posts for Christmas and Easter because we have so many favorite books for those seasons.

Bringing Your Kids Alongside you to Serve Others

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As Clarissa grows, one of my goals is for her to have a heart that wants to serve others and not just herself. At first it seemed hard to find ways for her to serve others since she is only five. But I have found that one of the best ways to do this, is to just bring her alongside when we serve.

Some ways that we do this in everyday life:

  • Meals
    If someone we has a baby or needs surgery or something like that, there is usually some kind of meal train. We sign up and take a meal to that family. Clarissa might help me make the meal. But she always wants to make dessert. So she helps me bake something for the family and also usually comes with me to deliver the meal.
  • Babysitting
    Living in an army community overseas, there are not usually family members around to help. Friends become that family for you while you are here. If a friend has a doctor appointment or a job interview, we can watch their children. Clarissa isn’t old enough to be in charge, but she can play and share her toys with the children at our house.
  • Sunday School
    If I am teaching Sunday School, Clarissa can help me prepare. She helps me choose materials for her class. On Sunday morning, she goes with me to set up the supplies before class starts.
  • Sponsor a Child
    Once a child is three years old, they are eligible to be a sponsored child for Compassion International. On Clarissa’s third birthday, we went on their website and found a list of a three kids who were born on her birthday. I thought for sure she would choose the little girl, but she was adamant that she wanted to choose a boy. She helps me write letters and draw pictures for our sponsored child. We pray for him and his family. We talk about what the money we send does for his family. I think she is still disappointed that we have yet to meet him in person but hopefully we’ll get to do that someday.
  • Responding to Needs
    Facebook can be a helpful tool. A few times we have seen posts on our community pages that describe a specific need. For example, one time there was a woman whose brother’s house burned down and his family lost anything. She was asking for donations of clothes for the children and one was a little girl Clarissa’s size. We have more than enough so Clarissa and I went through her things and found clothes, shoes, books, and toys that we could send for the little girl.

It is getting closer to Christmas so families are often looking for ways to serve. There are plenty of holiday specific things you can do.

  • Operation Christmas Child
    In America, this is one of my favorite things to do. I collect things all year like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and small toys to put in our shoeboxes. There aren’t any drop off points in Korea, so I was sad that we would not be able to participate here. But there is an online option. For $25 per box, we can assemble a shoebox online. Clarissa and I can choose gender, age, and specific items in each category for our shoebox. We can also enclose a family picture and write a note. Then we pray for the child who will receive our shoebox. It is one of Clarissa’s favorite things to do.img_20181025_1140496001063227302204537.jpg

 

  • Angel Tree
    Angel Tree is a program that gives children with incarcerated parents gifts for Christmas. Many churches or community centers participate in this program. You can find a child’s ornament on the tree and buy gifts for that child to bring back to be distributed. Some churches do their own version of this. In Korea, the chapel did something similar with children at a nearby orphanage. Clarissa enjoyed going with me to the px to buy some clothes and toys for the child.
  • Christmas gift for Jesus
    On Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some families do a birthday party for Jesus complete with cake. We also choose some gifts for Jesus. Several ministries send out a gift catalog in the fall. This year, Clarissa looked through the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Catalog and spent several days deciding what we wanted to do. She wanted to give more than our budget so it was hard to choose specific items. She kept wanting to do the feeding people and medical gifts. We ended up choosing a goat since that would feed a family for a long time. She also chose sending winter coats to kids. When she is older and has an allowance, it will be interesting to see if she is willing to pay for these things herself. But for now, she is learning about the needs of others.
  • Soup kitchens
    This is really something that you can do all year, but many people only think about it during the holidays. There are several people in your community who don’t have a place to stay or enough food to eat. You can go as a family to serve them a meal.

Our Favorite Christmas Books for preschool and young elementary

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Clarissa has so many books that they don’t fit all fit on her bookshelf (side effect of your mother being a former reading teacher I suppose). There are certain books we like for each season so I rotate them out. I pull out the Christmas books about Thanksgiving time. But she knows where they are, so sometimes she will go and get them at random times during the year.

We have so many Christmas books that we really enjoy. This is our list of our favorite Christmas books for preschool and young elementary children.

  • Peek A Bible The Christmas Story by Tracy Harrast
    This is a lift the flap book that tells the Christmas story from Gabriel coming to see Mary until the wise men arrive to worship Jesus. Clarissa has always enjoyed lifting the flaps and I like that it is the true Biblical story.
  • Crystal Bowman’s Christmas board books are some of my favorites. I love the rhyme to the stories and the pictures are great. Clarissa really enjoys these as well.
    Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree talks about how every part of your Christmas tree (lights, the star, angels, presents, etc) points you back to Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.
    J is for Jesus talks about how a candy cane tells you Jesus’s story and gives details about the shepherds and angels at Christmas. It also talks about Jesus on the cross. Think Legend of the Candy Cane but for little ones.
    A Star for Jesus talks about how the star appeared in the sky and led the wise men to Jesus.
    My Christmas Stocking talks about St Nicholas and why we put presents in stockings today.
  • A Christmas Prayer by Amy Parker
    This rhyming book talks about being thankful for each part of the nativity set from the angel, to Mary and Joseph, the donkey, shepherds, star, and of course baby Jesus who was the best present of all.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    We like Little Cub in this house. In this installment, Mama takes Little Cub to go find God and see how He gave us Christmas. Little Cub is very excited that she can go and see God in things like the light, a glacier, and a star. They talk about how Jesus is the real reason for Christmas and the best gift ever.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
    I think I need to write a blog post specifically for her books. The Pine Tree Parable is about a family who comes to a poor family who comes to a pine tree farm and the little girl wants the biggest tree there. The family who owns the pine tree farm ends up gifting the family the tree, even though she was planning to keep it for their family. A wonderful story about giving.
  • Of course the Berenstain Bears have some fun Christmas books as well
    Trim the Tree is a flap book that watches the Bear family put up their Christmas Tree.
    In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, the cubs learn that it is better to give than to receive. They also are the camel in the Christmas Play where you can see the Nativity story.
    In The Very First Christmas, Papa Bear reads the cubs the Christmas story from the Bible. It has fun illustrations. Clarissa always thinks its funny that they are bears instead of people though.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia by Sue Corbett
    In this story, a brother and sister are supposed to visit their aunt in Virginia but the sister gets hurt so she can’t go. The brother writes his sister every day to tell about his adventures. We’re originally from Virginia so I like that Clarissa can learn a little bit about the state she’s from.
  • Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
    I like this story better than the original Gingerbread Boy because this one isn’t obnoxious. He just wants some friends and goes on an adventure to find them.
  • The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop
    This is a new favorite for me this year. In the beginning of the story, the princess is quite spoiled. So the king and queen come up with a plan. By the end of the story, the princess has given away all of her gifts and become truly gracious and kind. Clarissa is a little unsure because she thinks I am going to make her give away all of her presents though.
  • The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
    Clarissa was more excited about this new book about giving. Emma and her dog are invited to the king’s palace for his birthday party. Along the way Emma gives away all of her presents for the king. The king explains to her the verse that talks about “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” The end of the book gives some suggestions on how your family can give a birthday present to Jesus. Clarissa immediately was like, “Let’s do that!”
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
    This book isn’t about Jesus at all. But. It has all of the usual Little Critter antics that we enjoy. He tries to get the ornaments out for mom, but the box was upside down. He wants to give her Christmas cookies but he got hungry. You get the idea…

 

As a side note, I noticed as I was linking these to Amazon, most of these books are on sale right now. They are also not new books, so some are available at your local library.

Teaching Science without textbooks

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One of Clarissa’s favorite things to do is to read. It is also one of her favorite ways to learn. If we read about it in a book (or watch a show on TV), she is more likely to remember it. She will bring up facts that we read about months ago that I have already forgotten about.

A big favorite right now is a series of chapter books about Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro. In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to solve the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that my five year old often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!

With six books in the series, each book has a different creature and a different problem. Since Clarissa is only in kindergarten, we mostly read these books for fun. But there is a website about the book series that also has printables for science and literature activities that go with each book. Those would be great for families or teachers who want to go deeper with the books.

We also really like Magic School Bus in this house as well as the Magic School Bus Rides Again. We have watched every show, but we also own many of the books. When Clarissa is excited about any science topic, I can usually find an episode or two on netflix and a few books as well. The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book.

Last year, her favorite topic was the human body. So we watched all of the body episodes on both series as well as read the books. Then we spent a lot of time drawing pictures of the different systems in our bodies.

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Another of Clarissa’s favorite topics is animals. We have watched so many episodes of Wild Kratts to learn about animals. They also have a great website with information, videos, and games for kids to explore more about any animal they choose. Our library also has a few early reader books based on the Wild Kratts series.

Our library has a great section of picture books that are both fiction and nonfiction. Whatever topic Clarissa is interested in, I can usually find both fiction and nonfiction stories to read. Recently, we borrowed My Leaf Book so that we could talk about fall. Clarissa wanted to learn more about leaves so we walked around our apartment complex one day to collect various leaves. Then we made our own book by drawing pictures of the leaves and looking them up, either in the leaf book on online, to label each leaf. She was so proud of herself.

A new favorite is our Steve Spangler Science Club. Once a month we receive a box of 4-5 experiments. We received our first box this month. The experiments are related but you can still spread them out over several days. This is something that Tim and Clarissa like to do together during daddy daughter time.

Our Favorite Thanksgiving Books

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If you’ve been around a while, you know that we love books in this house. I have special books that we only get out at certain times of year. Though Clarissa knows where they are so sometimes I have to go hunting for them. This year we found a new favorite at the library as well. There are so many books available to teach kids the history of Thanksgiving, but these are our current favorites.

  • An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving
    In this story by Louisa May Alcott, the mother and father get called away suddenly because her mother is sick. So the older daughters are left in charge for Thanksgiving. They make dinner but they don’t do it quite right. But the extended family comes home and has a wonderful evening together, complete with apple slump for dessert. The recipe was in the back of the book, so you know we had to make it. It was delicious!
  • God Gave Us Thankful Hearts
    I wrote about this book a few years ago when we first discovered Little Pup. It leads to great discussions about all the things we can be thankful for.
  • Berenstain Bears Give Thanks
    Papa makes a new table and chairs for Farmer Ben. His payment is a big turkey named Squanto. Sister Bear falls in love with Squanto and so they don’t end up eating him for Thanksgiving dinner. But Sister and the other cubs do put on a play about the first Thanksgiving.
  • The Littlest Pilgrim
    Mini is the smallest pilgrim in the village and gets frustrated because everyone says she is too small to help. This part frustrates Clarissa. But at the end she makes a friend so she likes it. I like that you get to see many of the chores during colonial times so Clarissa gets to see what life was actually like for a pilgrim girl like Mini.
  • Thank you, Sarah
    This is the story of how Thanksgiving became the national holiday that we celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November. A woman named Sarah Hale actually wrote letters for thirty eight years before Abraham Lincoln said yes to her idea of having a set day for Thanksgiving so that everyone in the country could celebrate on the same day. We like it because the book refers to her as a super hero. So she is a girl and her super power is writing. Both things are of value in this house.
  • Being Thankful
    At the beginning of the book Little Critter complains about everything. Then, he goes to visit his grandparents on their farm and learns about being thankful complete with a new thankful rock. He comes home and teaches his sister what it means to be thankful. (Clarissa painted thankful rocks for everyone in our house after reading this book…)

Our favorite books for five year old girls

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Clarissa and I read A LOT. We read as part of our school day, at bedtime, if Clarissa’s mood is out of control, or just because she wants to read. If she gets sent to her room, she just looks at books until I tell her she can come out.

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When she was younger, we could read the same book several times in a row for days at a time. Now we may repeat a book later in the week. But we have shifted to reading books in the same series instead of just reading the same title.

Some of our favorite series right now:

  • Fancy Nancy
    Fancy Nancy is hilarious. She is your typical six year old girl. Super girly and proper but still quite silly. Her idea of fancy is using big words. Clarissa loves her crazy adventures. I like that Clarissa learns new vocabulary. Nancy also comes from a great family so you see family dynamics including a good relationship with her little sister and she has some other great adults in her life.
  • Anything by Mo Willems
    Mo Willems is a wonderful children’s author and illustrator. He writes several series of books. We have been reading Gerald and Piggie for a few years. The pigeon books are growing on Clarissa as well lately. But her new favorite is his Knuffle Bunny series (pronounced k-nuffle in Dutch). The books are mostly written in short dialog which makes them funny but also great for new readers.

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  • Magic School Bus/ Magic School Bus Rides Again
    The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book. Clarissa doesn’t ask for these everyday like she used to. But we still read Magic School Bus at least once per week. Especially if she is in the mood to learn something or if we talk about something during our lessons and she remembers she has a book about it.
  • Zoey and Sassafrass
    In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to help the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that Clarissa often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!
  • Berenstain Bears
    I used to read Berenstain Bears as a kid. In fact, we still have some of my books in Clarissa’s bookshelf. I like that the stories come from a pretty conservative worldview. Clarissa likes that they are a family of bears and that Sister Bear wears pink. I also like that they have several Christian books now so she can read about Jesus, Christmas, Easter, and prayer while reading her favorite characters.
  • Skippyjon Jones
    Skippyjon Jones is a cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. He goes on crazy adventures in his closet where he goes to places like Mexico and outer space. He’s pretty crazy and his books are funny. But they don’t really have any moral lessons included in them.

Books that aren’t in a series that we read often:

  • Amazing You
    Last year, Clarissa was very interested in the human body. We have all of the Usborne books about the inside of the human body. This summer we spent some time talking about appropriate touch and private parts. She still asks to read this one often.
  • There are No Moose on This Island
    My aunt sent Clarissa this book for her birthday last year. A boy and his dad go on a trip to Maine and take a ferry to an island. The dad is very interested in his guide book and insists that there are not any moose on the island. But the boy definitely sees one. The moose and the boy spend most of the day trying to convince the dad that the moose is real. He finally sees them as they are on the ferry going back to the mainland.

This year I was introduced to Sarah Mackenzie who has curated book lists for just about everything.

Korean Folk Village take 2

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We did a family trip to the Korean Folk Village in Yongin when Clarissa was two. There was a homeschool field trip there last week and Clarissa and I decided to go since she didn’t remember the first trip. There were actually several things that we did this trip that we didn’t get to do the first time so I was happy about that.

We decided to pay for the full admission which includes the Folk Village and the Amusement Park as well. Full admission is 27,000 won (about $25) for adults and 20,000 won ($18) for children. If you plan to skip the rides, adults pay 18,000 won for admission to the folk village itself. Children pay only 13,000. There is parking available for 2,000 won per car or you can take public transportation available. I saw several buses that said they came from Suwon station or Incheon Airport.

We started our beautiful fall day at the amusement park. Clarissa really liked the boat ride and the train ride. She was too afraid to go on anything else but the teenagers we were with loved all of the rides available.

If you look at the boat ride, to your right is a World Folk Village Museum. Clarissa and I kind of stumbled upon it while we were looking for a bathroom. It was honestly one of the highlights of our trip. There were nine different buildings with 2-3 different countries inside. Each country showed clothes, weapons, jewelry, or housing for an indigenous people of that particular country. The signs were in Korean and English. There were longer descriptions in Korean as well but we learned plenty without being able to read the longer writings.

Clarissa and I had some great discussions about all of these countries. She recognized some of the names like United States, Japan, China, Peru, and Australia. Some were new to her: Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Iran. There were maps on the wall so we could see where each country was on the map. I think we have a lot of books to read now so we can continue learning about these places and cultures.

We met back up with our friends for some gelato and then headed to the Equestrian Feats show. It was great! The performers basically did gymnastics on horses. It was only about twenty minutes and our attention was focused the entire time.

After the show, Clarissa and I wondered a bit and saw some different types of houses you would find in Korea at different points in history. There were government buildings, mansions, and farm houses. There were several additional experiences that you could pay for like making a clay pot or woodworking, but they close earlier in the day so you need to do those first. Clarissa really enjoyed walking through the jail and seeing the governor’s house, sitting in the governor’s chair, and pretending to be a prisoner on trial.

I was surprised that five year old Clarissa was interested in all of the buildings and houses. She actually walked the whole day without complaining. She kept saying, “What’s that? Let’s go over there…”

The Folk Village is open 8 hours each day. You can easily spend the entire day there and not see everything. I recommend it for children and adults.

Books for teaching kids about their bodies and appropriate touch

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Teaching Clarissa about her body is one of my jobs as a mom. She’s known the correct names for a while and we’ve talked about who is allowed to touch her and where. I have found a few books on the subject of body parts and appropriate touch for young children that I thought I would share.

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Amazing You! by Dr Gail Saltz, geared toward preschoolers, is currently one of Clarissa’s favorite books. She loves learning about the human body so she was very excited to learn about private parts and what their functions are. This picture book is easy to read and has illustrations that are appropriate for little kids. It says, “When a man and woman love each other and decide that they want to have a baby, a man’s sperm joins with a woman’s egg. From the egg and sperm, a baby will grow.” But that’s as detailed as it gets about reproduction in this book.

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The Story of Me and Before I was Born are the first two books in a series called “God’s Design For Sex.”

The Story of Me by Stan and Brenna Jones says that it is geared towards age 3 to 5. I think that is pretty accurate. The book talks about giving babies to married people to raise. It talks about a baby growing inside a mommy. The story introduces terms like womb, uterus, and umbilical cord. It also discusses vaginal birth, c-section, and breastfeeding in a way that little kids understand. They even introduced the idea of good touch and bad touch.

Before I was Born by Carolyn Nystrom is written for children ages 5 to 8. This book focuses on the physical differences between boys and girls. It says that God made them different and He said it was good. The book introduced the idea of sex being a gift for married couples and how a baby is made. It also discusses how a baby develops inside his mother.

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Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr by Kristen Jenson introduces the idea of pornography and talks about what you should do if you see something that you should not see. This one reads a little awkwardly out loud but led to great discussions.

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My least favorite was I Said No! A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Zack and Kimberly King. I appreciate what the book was trying to do. It was about a boy who went to a sleepover and his friend wanted to show him his private parts. Reading the words as they were written was very awkward. I found myself paraphrasing to to appease my ears. But it did bring about some great discussions between Clarissa and I.

A Dad’s Role in Homeschooling

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When I was an elementary school teacher, the school district set the curriculum and pacing guide. As a homeschool mom, the idea of planning my daughter’s curriculum was daunting at first. I thought about what I want Clarissa to learn before she graduates from our household. I asked my husband what he thought that she should learn before graduation and then we talked about what we thought was important for kindergarten. We also asked her what she wanted to learn this year. And then I prayed and made a one page outline of what I thought Clarissa could do each month for kindergarten.

Two months in, my husband thought I was spending way too much time picking out the “right activities” and planning lessons. He assured me that we had room in the budget for me to buy some curriculum to make life easier so I could actually enjoy homeschooling. I am so thankful for his perspective on this. It has really helped me to just relax and do the next thing. There is still time for reading books we are excited about and we can stop when she loses interest without worrying if I’m doing enough.

One of Tim’s biggest roles in our homeschooling has been cheerleader. He doesn’t just finance our adventures and field trips. He values the time that homeschooling gives us as a family. He likes that Clarissa’s biggest influencers are her parents and not someone else.  The three of us are in agreement that we enjoy the homeschooling lifestyle and we don’t want to stop it anytime soon. We have also found that as a homeschooling family, mom isn’t the only one who leads learning. Dad has a role too.

As a kid, Tim really enjoyed geography. He looked at maps and read books about other countries. We live in South Korea so our daughter gets to experience another culture regularly. The last time we went on vacation, we wanted to visit a really big English bookstore in Tokyo. One of our main goals was to find a great atlas. We found a few books that we were excited about with maps and also how kids live around the world. Now that we are home, Tim enjoys looking through these with Clarissa in the evening. Before we go on vacation to a different country, Clarissa learns about the culture and geography of that place. We have a lot of great discussions on vacation as well.

Another thing that Tim and Clarissa enjoy doing together is science experiments. This summer, they grew crystals from a kit, and also tried to grow trips and fairy shrimp. I like that Clarissa is getting some hands on learning and it is something that they enjoy doing together. Then we find books from the library to learn more about these topics.

They also enjoy building things together. We recently bought a stool from IKEA that we had to assemble so they built it together. Legos are a staple at our house. Clarissa also likes to watch Tim build Gundam models.

They recently subscribed to the Steve Spangler Science Club. It will be interesting to see which science experiments they receive in the mail each month. Clarissa enjoys receiving things in the mail and it will give them something to work on together consistently.

The changing nature of Kindergarten

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Clarissa and I did a preschool curriculum together last school year. She really liked it in the beginning and then started to lose interest in April so we stopped. By May she was asking to do “real school” at home so I planned a June start to kindergarten.

I spent hours looking through all of my school supplies and the activities that I had downloaded. I tried a homeschool planning course to see if that would help me. But I think that stressed me out more because it encouraged me to plan for the entire year before I start the school year. I decided to plan unit studies since I don’t have a formal curriculum to just break down into sections. I did make an outline of what units I thought we would do this year, but I knew it could change because I wasn’t sure how much Clarissa would enjoy doing each day.

I wanted to start slow and get into a habit of doing lessons 20-30 minutes per day just four times per week. Our June Bible story was about Joseph (his coat, his brothers, and his life in Egypt). We read some of the Bible story each day and did a few crafts. We spent some time learning about our five senses, colors, shapes, and emotions. She also learned how to make a peanut butter sandwich and a peanut butter waffle. Some days Clarissa would enjoy school so much that she wanted to do more so we would do two or three days worth of lessons in one day and then she wouldn’t want to do school for a few days. The weather was so nice that we would often do school outside.

In July, we started doing more academics, adding letters and numbers to our days. We went to Japan in July so we spent some time watching videos and reading books about Japan. We also learned about the letter J; it’s sound and how to write it. I wanted to spend the month memorizing Jeremiah 29:11 instead of focusing on a Bible story, but Clarissa kept asking for Bible stories anyway so we did both. I knew that one of our next family adventures would be to the aquarium so we started studying sea animals when we returned from Japan. We learned about the letter C and Clarissa practiced writing her first name. She can already count past 10 but we focused on writing just those numbers and counting things or playing board games that require counting dice and spaces.

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By mid July, Tim thought that I was spending way too much time planning our activities. He suggested that I buy some curriculum instead of making my own in order to make the planning of school less stressful. I agreed that although I enjoy planning, I was spending too much time “trying to do it right.” I was also printing so much that we were spending plenty on ink. So I went online and ordered some kindergarten books.

In August, Clarissa learned how to make her bed. Since it was been so hot outside in Korea, her new favorite place to do school was actually on her bed. We spent two weeks reviewing a literature study on Paddington Bear that was excellent. We then went back to studying ocean animals, worked on counting and writing numbers to 20, and learned the sounds and letters P, B, F, and S. We focused on Bible stories about fish; Jonah, Jesus calms the storm, and feeding the 5,000. For her birthday we went to an aquarium in Seoul and she really enjoyed looking at all of the animals and feeding the fish. At the aquarium, Clarissa and Tim got really excited about the kits to grow triops and angel fairy shrimp, so we have a few new pets at our house. We learned about life cycles too.

September was less stressful. The weather was cooler so we read and explored outside again. I also have a reading curriculum, math workbooks, and some unit studies that we both enjoy so I don’t have to do as much prep. We also read a lot of books. When we studied Noah’s Ark we spent a couple of weeks reading about animals. After a walk last weekend, she is all about bugs. I am so thankful for the library these days! Clarissa is also enjoying attending AWANA, a Korean class, and gymnastics one hour each per week to round out our lessons.

The Read-Aloud Family

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I was determined to only read the books that I already own this year (or at least the ones I can get from the library). But when The Read-Aloud Family was on sale for $2.99 on Kindle, I couldn’t resist.

In my elementary school teacher days, my favorite part of the day was read aloud time (and guided reading). Before lunch and at the end of the day, whenever we had time really, I would read aloud to my class. We always started the year with Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Even my more reluctant readers would beg for “another Wayside.” One year my class wrote the next chapter in the Wayside series, wrote a letter to the author, and only read books by the author, Louis Sachar. I have actually been looking forward to introducing Clarissa to the Wayside series since before she was born.

Reading has been a part of our routine from the beginning. Clarissa has always loved books, even if she was mostly eating them at first. We read multiple times per day and she even “reads” to herself. She has recently been adamant about starting kindergarten so that she can “learn to read for real.”

I have heard about Sarah Mackenzie on one of my podcasts, Cultivating the Lovely. I knew that if she was writing a book about reading to your kids, it needed to be on my wishlist.

  • She talks about reading books being the same thing as eating comfort food. “When we’re in a new city we’ve done nothing but meet new people, eat new food, have new experiences. And yet at the end of the day, whether in a hotel room or a tent or even on a plane, we can open up If You Give A Moose a Muffin or Blueberries for Sal or some other book we’ve read a hundred times, and it’s comfort food. It reminds us this is who we are. “
  • She talks about how reading with our kids gives them the opportunity to live vicariously through the storybook characters, giving them a more well-rounded childhood than we could ever accomplish in real life.”
  • “By the time our children leave our homes, we don’t want them to wonder whether their lives matter. We want them to know they do. If we tell them enough stories, they will have encountered hard questions and practiced living through so many trials, hardships, and unexpected situations that, God willing, they will have what they need to become the heroes of their own stories. “
  • “It is said that a person who reads lives a thousand lives, but a person who never reads leads only one. What better opportunity can we give our children than to live a thousand lives before they leave home?”
  • It is impossible to teach your kids everything they will need for life before they leave your house. You can help them to learn to think and process information by reading to them, even when they can read themselves.
  • ” A good education, then, is not one that results in high test scores, elite college acceptances, or the ability to read Virgil in Latin or War and Peace without Cliffs Notes. A good education teaches us – – and our children – – to love fully and to love well.”
  • If you read aloud to your children, just ten minutes every other day, it will add up to over 30 hours per year!
  • You don’t have to discuss every book you read. “Trust that a book can speak directly to your child, even if you never intervene with a conversation or discussion.” You still want reading to be enjoyable.

Sarah shares ideas for reading journals, conversations, and even reading lists for each age group in this book. Sarah Mackenzie also has a podcast where she regularly talks to authors about kids and books.

Reading Eggs Review

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Online Reading Eggs Suite

Most days when I am making dinner, I listen to a podcast. Each podcast episode will have a sponsor. I have been hearing about a website called Reading Eggs for months. I was really excited when I had the opportunity to review their website and new workbooks. The new workbooks are grade specific and focus on either reading or math. Specifically, Clarissa and I worked with the 240 Essential Reading Skills for Kindergarten workbook.

Online Reading Eggs Suite
Clarissa turned five while we were working on this review, so she isn’t very far in her reading skills yet. She can generally recognize the letter names (especially the capital letters), but isn’t super familiar with their sounds. The website has three levels of reading instruction: Reading Eggs Junior (ages 2-4), Reading Eggs (ages 3-9), and Reading Eggspress (ages 7-13). The first time she explored the website she thought that Reading Eggs Junior was way too easy and Reading Eggs was way too hard. It was hard to convince her to try again so we took a break from the Reading Eggs portion for about a week.

During that week, we focused on the workbook lessons. The workbook lessons actually match the website really well. In the workbook, the child completes four pages of one letter. You learn the sound of the letter, decide which words start with that letter sound, finding the letter in a list, and practice writing the letter. It took Clarissa a few days to gain confidence with discriminating the letter sounds. She did enjoy writing the letters. I also really liked that each day, she was able to circle which letter she wrote the best.

Clarissa actually really started to enjoy the workbook the more we did it. Now she is recognizing “at” and “am.” On the day we did “at” she was really excited because the directions said to “draw a cat.” So she wanted to sit on the couch near our cat Mittens so that she could draw her correctly.

As she started to gain confidence with the workbook, we went back to the website. Each website lesson covers the same skill as the workbook. She wasn’t as frustrated with the website this time. She was able to choose the correct words that started with each letter. She also liked the videos that went with each lesson and that the little ant friend would read the words for her to help her figure out the answer.

I really like the way the website is set up in that you have to complete the first lesson before you can go on to the next. This way, children are learning skills in a logical order. Also, there is a parent dashboard on the website so I can see which lessons Clarissa has completed and how well she mastered each lesson. At the end of a unit, the website emails me so I can see her progress.

Another thing to note is that the website also has a math section for children ages 3-9 called Mathseeds. Clarissa loves Mathseeds! Even on days she didn’t want to do Reading Eggs, she asked to do Mathseeds. It is set up in a similar way in that the child has to complete one lesson before moving on to the next one. The dashboard and parent email works the same. She really enjoys the lessons and games. There are also workbooks available for math that you can read about from other reviewers.

I think that both the workbook and the website are beneficial because it is more reinforcement of the same skills. The prices are reasonable too. Workbooks are normally $19.95, but you can use the coupon code WK10IYWAG6J for  10% off before October 15, 2018Also, if you register before October 7, 2018, you can do a four week free trial of the website. The website membership is normally $59 for the year.

Online Reading Eggs Suite {Reading Eggs Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Acts of the Holy Spirit: Using the book of Acts to talk about Spiritual Gifts

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Back when I was the children’s ministry coordinator at my church, I wasn’t thrilled with the curriculum choices for Sunday school. There were some interesting things out there but they were either really expensive or didn’t fit the kids at my church. I’m kind of an all or nothing person so I couldn’t commit to spending the church’s money on something I wasn’t in love with. So I decided to write my own curriculum. As I was teaching each week, people were telling me that I should publish my curriculum. I finally got around to publishing Acts of the Holy Spirit: Using the book of Acts to talk about Spiritual Gifts in the spring and apparently forgot to write about it on my blog…

Before we studied the book of Acts, we spent 14 weeks learning about Jesus. Naturally, after Easter we talked about Pentecost and then moved into the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This curriculum is just a collection of the lessons that we did that summer. The really cool part about this series was that I found a spiritual gifts test for kids in the book Discover Your Kid’s Spiritual Gifts. So at the beginning of the summer, the kids took the test. Then we learned about the different spiritual gifts. By the end of the summer, the elementary school kids in my church were using their gifts by teaching and serving in so many cool ways.

Usually, I publish a curriculum version and a family devotion version of each unit. But this one is different because many of the lessons were spent acting out the Bible stories. I felt like it would be harder to do that around a dinner table.

Download Holy Spirit curriculum

Summer School Days

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Clarissa has been asking me to teach her to read off and on since before she was potty trained. She constantly asked to start kindergarten this spring so I spent May planning what I wanted our year together to look like.

In June, we officially started kindergarten. I knew that I wanted to start slow so I planned for 20-30 minutes of lessons, four days per week. Some days were like binge days for her and she would do two or three days worth in one sitting because she didn’t want to stop. So my July plans had more to do each day.

Omi sent us a scavenger hunt from a magazine. We decided that we wanted to do it across the street at Nonseong Park. Clarissa and I thought it would be fun to do school outside as well so we packed our school books, some crayons, and a clipboard in my backpack. On the way out the door, Clarissa decided to ride her bike and also bring the kite.

Clarissa rode her bike across the street and then we climbed the hill to fly the kite. As I set my bookbag down, Clarissa already had her kite in the air. This was only her second time flying a kite, but she did extremely well.

When we needed a water break, we headed to the pavilion on the hill to do our Bible time.

Then we did our scavenger hunt. Clarissa had a great time finding the items on the list like a crooked stick, a bug that crawls, something that smells good, and something that feels rough. The only thing we didn’t find was an acorn. But we found a pinecone instead.

We reviewed our five senses to talk about what we did on our scavenger hunt and drew pictures.

We took another break to play on the Korean exercise equipment and then headed back to the pavilion to read our books for the day.

Then we headed back up the hill for more kite flying fun. She went on the very top and said she was walking on the Hwaseong Fortress.

When we had enough we headed home by bike. Our “school day” took about two hours with all the breaks but we both really enjoyed it.

Other days, we brought our schoolwork to one of the playgrounds in our apartment complex. We would bring our books and schoolwork outside and she would do an activity or two, go play, and come back to complete another activity.

We have also been on a lot of field trips this summer. We learned about animals at the National Institute of Ecology, fed fish at the aquarium in Seoul, hiked the Hwaseong Fortress wall, touched bugs at the Asan Insect Museum, saw animals at the Ueno Zoo, and learned about Japan before our trip to Tokyo.

Because our school days were short, we had plenty of time to go swimming or play with friends. I think this was one of our favorite summers together. I wonder what school should look like for fall?

God Schooling Review

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Since Clarissa is in kindergarten, I am very new to this homeschool mom thing. As a former public school teacher, I am used to following curriculum or a pacing guide. But learning to go at my child’s pace is pretty new to me. I enjoy it but I always wonder if I’m doing it right. So when I had the chance to review God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn by Julie Polanco, I knew I would benefit from this book. I wasn’t disappointed.

God Schooling book

In the first section of the book, Julie really challenged my thinking about what homeschooling should look like. She makes some great points in the first chapter about curriculum as a tool and not as an end goal, teaching character before academics, and your relationship with your children. “If we are walking closely with the Lord, He will show us exactly what to do at exactly the right time. ” So as long as I’m seeking God,  Clarissa will be fine. “He loves Clarissa too much to let ME ruin her…” So it really helps to alleviate some of the stress of am I really doing this right?! 

In the second section of the book, Julie Polanco spends some time discussing how to teach children at different ages. Research shows that “the basic character of a child is set by age 7,” but a child can learn academics at any age. So especially when a child is young, teaching character and behavior is more important than learning facts. She thinks that children don’t really need formal academics until about age 8-10, but they will learn more quickly at that age because they are developmentally ready for it. She encourages readers to focus on life experiences instead like writing letters to Grandma or learning math through daily life (cooking, playing games, counting things, etc) instead of a formal curriculum. She also says that teenagers should be able to cook, clean, mow the lawn, run errands; basically to run a household. This totally makes sense if you are going to prepare them to be independent adults.

I did like how she said not to assume that Clarissa would enjoy certain subscriptions or field trips. Ask her first. Sometimes she would rather stay home and play. I have found this to be true with my child. Several times in the book the author mentions “I have often found myself worrying about what other people think about my kids, rather than what God thinks about my kids.” I think this is probably true of most moms, myself included. It is just refreshing to hear another mom admit this. My main goal in homeschooling is for Clarissa to be who God created her to be and to be ready to walk in whatever He has called her to. So it is going to look different than what other parents are doing with their kids because their kids are probably called to something different than Clarissa.

I like many of the points that Julie Polanco makes in her book God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn. I think it would be encouraging for homeschool moms to read, just to see how another mom thinks and teaches her children. I don’t think I’m a true unschooler as I am not ready to throw away all of my curriculum. But I am learning to not demand that Clarissa completes a certain number of pages each day. I have an idea of what I want her to work on, but if she loses interest before then it’s okay. We’ll get to it eventually. She actually enjoys doing things in a set pattern or working through a book together. As she gets older I think she will have more say in what subjects we will study. For now we are going to focus on Bible stories, life skills, and learning to read.

God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn {Julie Polanco Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Branch Out World Review

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Clarissa really enjoyed the Paddington Bear movies, so we were excited to review a literature study on the picture book of Paddington Bear by Branch Out World. In this literature study, you read the same book for five days in a row, but focus on a different subject with activities each day.

The study says that it is for students aged 5-10. Clarissa will turn 5 next week so I thought it might be a good fit for us. While Clarissa definitely was ready to enjoy the story, the literature study was written for older kids. I was able to adapt several activities for us, but I think I will have to try these particular activities again when she is more like 8.

After our reading on the first day, we talked about geography. Paddington is originally from Peru and moves to England. The literature study includes some great resources about both England and Peru, but Clarissa wasn’t ready for them. We found some videos online about life in England and Peru that she really enjoyed and colored the simple flags of England and Peru included in the study.

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Day two was supposed to be about dictionary skills and grammar, neither of which are super important to us in kindergarten. We did focus on the theme of helping others and the narration, which led to some great discussions. Clarissa actually has great recall when I read to her. She remembers and understands more than I realized.

Day three was about art and architecture. One of the activities was to look a certain page of the book for two minutes. Then, we were to close the book and see which details that we could remember. Clarissa enjoyed this activity so much that we did it four times! We also did some of the study about the different architectural elements on the page before she lost interest.

Day four was all about science. Clarissa really enjoyed feeling the difference between shaving cream and soap. Since Paddington used shaving cream to make a map of Peru, Clarissa wanted to draw a map of South Korea. We also had fun playing with condensation. I am glad that we have watched and read a lot of Magic School Bus so she understood the science of it.

Day five was all about math. Clarissa enjoyed looking for numbers in the illustrations of the book and then putting them in order. Then we tried some marmalade on toast to be like Paddington. She was not a fan of the marmalade so I was glad I bought a jar instead of trying to make it with the recipe included in the study. We did however make the strawberry tarts included in the study. Tim and I thought they were great. Clarissa enjoyed the cream and the tart but refused to try the strawberries. We may try again another time.

We enjoyed what parts of the Paddington Bear study that we completed from Branch Out World. I do recommend it to families, just not the age it specified. I think that if you want to do all of the activities as they are written, it is better for children ages 8-10. Branch Out World has other studies you can check out as well.

Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Learning About Science Collection Review

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WriteBonnieRose has created a new series of homeschool elementary science curriculum that Clarissa and I have really enjoyed working on together. There are three levels of this curriculum so far. For the purposes of this review, Clarissa and I were given Learning About Science Collection, level 1.

Learning about Science Collection Level 1

Learning About Science Collection, Level 1 included seven different units as well as a list of website links that you could use to supplement the material if you chose to go further. Units included Familiar Plants and How they Grow, Fruits and Vegetables Around the World, Animal Habitats of the World, Our Senses and Systems and How They Work, Learning About Life Cycles, Earth Layers, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes, and Exploring Senses of Matter.

The collection is a pdf download, so it was easy to access and use. I emailed it to my kindle and we read each unit like a book. Each unit read like a story. It was a nonfiction story because there were facts and information to learn, but it was easy to read. Another thing that we really enjoyed were the illustrations. They were outlines in black and white. This is great because Clarissa wanted to color them in herself. Also, each page had some copy work, which is perfect for my pre-reader. During the review period, Clarissa and I had time to get through Learning About Life Cycles and Animal Habitats of the World. These were the two longest units in the collection. We enjoyed several things about each unit.

Clarissa really enjoys babies and watching animals grow up so she was very excited to learn about life cycles. After most animals, she would ask me to stop reading and ask me to print out the page so that she could color in the pictures of the animals at each stage and trace the words provided for each stage. Each page felt like just the right amount of information for my kindergartner. It was enough to teach her something but not so much that she would lose interest. I liked that there were different kinds of animals included: mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. This way Clarissa was able to see that animals have many different kinds of life cycles.

The unit on habitats was also laid out very well. There were several different habitats listed. Included with each habitat was a description of the habitat as well as information about animals in each habitat to color and trace the names. She really enjoyed this unit as well and never wanted me to stop reading for the day.

This collection of units feels more like a literature unit than a science textbook. That was probably my favorite thing about it. I also liked that I could work on writing with Clarissa during our science lesson. I think a young reader in first or second grade would be able to read at least part of this to himself.

Each level of  the Learning About Science Collection retails for $12 or $13, or you can buy individual units for prices from $1.49-$3.49 depending on the unit. Bonnie is offering a deal for my readers. Until August 15, you can use coupon code REVIEWCREW50 to buy all three sets for $6 or $6.50 each. I went ahead and purchased levels 2 and 3 to use as future science curriculum.

As I glance through the level 2 and level 3 lessons, the set up is similar with copywork and illustrations. The content does increase in difficulty with each level. I think the level one would be great for kindergarten or first grade. The level 2 is probably better for late first grade to second grade if you want your student to be able to read the content to himself. Level three is a good fit for third grade. You can also read reviews of those levels to get a better feel for them.

Bonnie is planning to expand this collection of lessons, so if you have ideas for units to include, please comment on this post or email them to her directly.

Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Messy Learning Review

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Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

Clarissa was very excited to help me review Messy Learning for Preschoolers and Kindergartners by PandaParentsMessy Learning is a preschool program that will send you a digital course to complete with your child each month. Each course consists of story time, learning time, and creating time. There is a book included for each month which will focus on a specific letter and learning theme. A video will read the story to your child as well and also include some additional content that matches the story. Finally, there is a workbook of several activities that expand on the story.

We received three months of course content to review. Each course is designed to be completed in 20-30 minute segments three times per week. Clarissa enjoyed the material so much that she didn’t want to stop in 20-30 minutes per day. She wanted to do hours per day so we completed most of the materials in about two weeks (three months worth of work).

 

The first book, A Jolly Jingling Journey, was two holiday stories where they highlight the letter J. I like that the book was not written in preschool language so there was plenty of vocabulary to expose Clarissa to. There were also plenty of interactive things to do in the book like finding certain pictures or asking questions such as, “what do you think the reindeer are doing?” The video was about the letter J. The video did read the stories but also had some interactive features about the letter J so it was beneficial to watch the video in addition to reading the story. The workbook had activities like put these parts of the story in order, match the animal tracks to the picture of the animal, tracing letters, find what is different in two pictures, and counting various objects.

 

The second book was called Mommy’s Baby. It was really cute and compares several different things like mother to baby or big to small. The book also covered shapes and patterns. This video basically read the book to the child. But the workbook pages were great. There was some match the mother to the baby. I really liked that this workbook introduced new information to Clarissa about animals. She learned about different animal tails and had to match the animals to their tails. There was also work with colors and patterns as well as emotions. This book focused more on science concepts than a particular letter sound so there were several different letters to trace and write.

 

The third book we read was Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound. In this book the main character, Scotty Skunk, gets scared so he keeps trying to find a new place to live. The book explores the different seasons and how the environment would change based on the weather. Scotty moved every season! The workbook actually introduces the word habitat and talks about different places that animals can live. There was plenty of tracing and matching. This workbook had more cutting and pasting which Clarissa really liked. She was able to practice matching a picture to it’s shadow. This workbook talked the most about letter sounds but really focused on the letter S.

Clarissa loved Messy Learning! I liked that she was actually excited to do some writing (because up until now it has been drudgery to get her to write letters). She is also learning some letter sounds as well. I think that she also really liked that each story was so different. She was exposed to some science concepts as well like comparing sizes and the seasons.

The monthly subscription for Messy Learning is $9.95 per month. Your child will be exposed to some great vocabulary and even some science and math concepts. If you are looking for something fun and educational to do with your preschooler, this is a great choice. But, this isn’t a program that will teach your child to read. So if that is your goal, you would need a separate program.

This is a digital product, but a printer is very helpful. We would read the story together on my kindle. Then, Clarissa would watch the video on my laptop. You could do that over two different days. The workbook is usually 30+ pages, so that takes several days to complete. I downloaded the workbook to my kindle as well and we did several pages on my kindle to save on paper and ink. But you can’t write letters or cut and paste on a kindle, so we still had to print at least half of each workbook for her to complete the work. That is another thing to keep in mind as you consider if this program would be a good fit for your family.

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Planet 316 Story Bible Review

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Planet 316

We have several different children’s Bibles that we use regularly. Or rather, we did. Since we received the Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Story Bible app by Planet 316 and Worthy Kids/Ideals in the mail, Clarissa has decided that she doesn’t like the others. She only wants this one for Bible for story time. The Planet 316 Story Bible and the companion Planet 316 Story Bible app really do help to make the Bible stories come to life.
Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App

The Planet 316 Story Bible has all of the stories you would expect to see in a Children’s Bible. Old Testament and New Testament stories are included. You can read them straight through like a normal book or there is a Table of Contents if you want to find a specific story.

The Story Bible itself is very nice. Each page is illustrated. The illustrations are very vibrant and colorful. Clarissa really enjoys them. She will sit on the couch and “read” the stories to herself.

The companion app is wonderful! I have never seen an app that makes the illustrations in a book move before. You can download the app for both apple and android for free. The app works with any device that has a camera. We downloaded it both on my phone and on a tablet (so we could have a bigger picture).

During our Bible time, we will find our story in the Bible. I read the page to Clarissa. Then, we turn on the app on either the phone or tablet. Clarissa can hold the device over the page of the book we just read. It scans the page and then the illustrations on the book pop up on the screen. If you touch the screen illustrations with your finger, they come to life. So when Jesus feeds 5000 with the little boy’s lunch, you touch the little boy and he says, “Here Jesus. You can have my lunch,” as he lifts his bread and fish to Jesus.

The app is easy to use so Clarissa can use the Bible without me. She can sit on the couch and look at the pictures. She knows how to scan them and wait for the picture to load on the phone or tablet. She can touch the screen to make the picture move or talk. She seems to really enjoy the sound effects and illustrations.

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I am thankful for a book that makes my daughter excited about reading the Bible and learning more about God. The Planet 316 Story Bible and companion Planet 316 Story Bible app would be a wonderful addition to a family’s home library or family devotion time. It would also be a great addition for a church or classroom. I used the Bible and app during a Sunday School lesson about Jesus’s burial. The kids were so excited to see the story come to life. I think it made them understand what was happening more than just telling them. The children in the class range in age from two to eight, so I think that children through elementary school would really enjoy this Bible.
Planet 316 Story Bible and Bible App {Planet 316 Reviews}

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Princess Cut Movie Review

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Watchman Pictures

I love a good romance movie, especially one that doesn’t have any inappropriate scenes or themes in it. Princess Cut by Watchman Pictures, is one of those movies. The movie would be appropriate for elementary school students to see, but I think they would be bored with a love story. They use the word “intimate” instead of “sex” in this movie. There aren’t any kisses either. Someone tried to kiss Grace and she stopped him and said, “Not until you put a ring on it.” This is a movie that I definitely plan to watch with Clarissa when she is in middle school because it provides so many discussion points about relationships but also family dynamics.

Princess Cut The Movie

The movie is about Grace and her hard working, Christian family who lives on a soybean farm in North Carolina. At the beginning of the movie, Grace is kind of your typical college girl who just happens to be a Christian. She is so focused on her relationships with boys that she isn’t really paying attention to the people around her. She has two relationships before she realizes that something needs to change.

By this time, her dad has been encouraged by his pastor to study about the father’s role in his daughter’s relationships. He learns that the giving the daughter away during the wedding ceremony actually comes from Jeremiah 29:6. Grace and her dad have a conversation about how things need to shift so that they can do this God’s way. Her dad encourages her that “it’s not as much about finding the perfect person as becoming who God made you to be.”

During the second half of the movie you really watch Grace grow into this beautiful woman of God. She really wants to honor God and her family in the things that she does, including any romantic relationships. She goes to the library for some books about the subject and actually picks up some that I really enjoyed during that season of life, When God Writes Your Love Story and Boundaries in Dating.

A young doctor named Clint does get to know their family and asks for Grace’s parents permission to get to know her better before he even talks to Grace about it. When he talks to her he says, “Your heart is too precious a treasure to play games with.” That is the kind of young man that I would like to pursue Clarissa. I don’t want to give away the whole story. I will say that I really enjoyed it, which means it did have a happy ending.

There are so many good things that I will discuss with Clarissa when we watch this movie.

  • It’s not about waiting for the perfect guy. It’s about trusting God.
  • I want you to be able to talk to your dad and I about anything. God. Boys. Life. No matter how bad you think it is.
  • Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
  • Know what your boundaries will be physically before you start dating.
  • Not everyone believes that same things that we do, so you need to be careful about who you are receiving counsel from.
  • What kind of a friend do you want to be? What kind of friends do you want to have?
  • How should you treat your parents? siblings? How should they treat you?
  • What blessings has God given us that we can share with others?
  • How can we serve other people as a family?

I have seen a few “Christian” movies. Often you can tell they are lower budget than something that comes out in the movie theater. The actors were pretty good in this one. There was one scene that Grace was supposed to be crying and it wasn’t super believable. There were a few times when the camera angles were odd. For the most part, the acting and the sets were great.

Princess Cut {Watchman Pictures Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Bee – bim-Bop!

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Clarissa has been very literal with her books lately. If it’s in a book, we have to do it. One such book is Bee – bim- Bop! by Linda Sue Park.

We got this book from the library before our Hong Kong trip to learn a little bit about Korean culture. My favorite Korean dish is probably bibimbap so I thought it would be fun to read about it. In the book a little girl and her mom go to the grocery store to buy ingredients and then come home and make bibimbap together for the family dinner that evening. At the end of the book, the author lists her family’s recipe for bibimbap, with specific instructions for children and adults.

Clarissa asked if we could make it for dinner. I assured her that we would after we returned from vacation. She would not let me forget! The day after our return she demanded to go to the commissary to buy the ingredients. She fought with Daddy one night about dinner because Tim wanted pizza and Clarissa wanted to make bibimbap.

When it was time to make the bibimbap, Clarissa was excited to help. She helped measure the rice and the water. She measured the ingredients for the marinade and mixed it up. She even helped with the eggs.

At which point, we had been working for at least 20 minutes and she was tired of helping. She went to the couch to read some books while I sautéed the meat and vegetables.

I think they should charge more for bibimbap in restaurants! It is always less than $10 and it takes a while to make. We all enjoyed our meal and plan to put it in our meal rotation. Clarissa even ate eggs and carrots with her rice. I am hopeful that she will continue to try new things and enjoy the other vegetables as well.

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Ingredients:

1 cup white rice
1 pound sirloin or other beef steak
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup mung bean sprouts (optional)
4 eggs
PAM cooking spray

Marinade:
2 teaspoons minced garlic
5 tablespoons gluten free tamari sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar

Directions:
1. Pour one cup of rice and two cups of water into a saucepot. Cook on high until the water boils. Then switch to low heat until the water is absorbed into the rice.
2. Mix all marinade ingredients into a large bowl.
3. Slice beef into thin slices. Place sliced beef into marinade and mix thoroughly.
4. Whisk eggs in a bowl. Spray small frying pan. Pour egg in sections into . Cook like a pancake. Slice eggs into strips. Put into small bowl for serving.
5. Spray frying pan. Saute carrots until tender. Put into small bowl for serving.
6. Spray frying pan. Saute spinach until tender. Put into small bowl for serving.
7. Spray frying pan. Saute mung bean sprouts until tender. Put into small bowl for serving.
8. Spray frying pan. Saute beef and marinade until beef is cooked through. Put into small bowl for serving. Pour marinade into small container for serving as well.
9. Serve with rice in bowls. Each person adds the ingredients that they want to their bowl and mix it all up.

Zirrly Bead Review

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*******Clarissa and I have seen some fun bead kits in stores over the past year. But they always need an iron to make the design permanent. We didn’t bring an iron to Korea (because I don’t iron). I even thought about buying an iron just to do these crafts with Clarissa. I was so excited when I found out about this Zirrly review! Clarissa and I get to create without needing an iron. We received the Super Beads Mega Pack because we couldn’t decide which individual projects we wanted to try.

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Our pack included beads, four plastic bases, a plastic tool, two water spray bottles, and some design sheets with directions. We were surprised that the beads didn’t come pre-sorted. It wasn’t a huge problem though. We simply got out some bowls and sorted beads into bowls by color. We didn’t do the whole pack, but enough to do a few designs.

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Next, Clarissa chose a pattern. She decided to try the apple. We placed the pattern design under the plastic base. We also put a pattern sheet next to our base so we could see the colors better. Then, we started placing the beads on the plastic base. It was pretty easy to do. Clarissa started with the green leaf. I did the outer edge and then we did the white inside together. Her little four year old fingers were big enough to do the job. She didn’t get too tired either.

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After we finished, it was time to spray the design with water. The directions say to spray the entire design, but don’t “flood it with water.” Clarissa and I were both spraying, so we must have “flooded” it. This wasn’t a huge problem, except that it took longer to dry. It said it would take 60 minutes or more. Some of the project was dry. But the rest was sticky, so we decided to leave it overnight. It was dry enough in the morning.

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While we were waiting for the apple to dry, Clarissa asked to do another one. This time, she chose the elephant. So we put a pattern under another base and started placing beads. She did the tail and then started to get tired. She did the white parts on the pattern and I did the rest.

We repeated our water spray with the elephant. Again, I think we sprayed too much. Clarissa checked on it before she went to bed and some of the beads were still sticky. Part of the tail came off as well as one of the white pieces. It wasn’t a huge problem, the directions say to just put them back on the base and spray again. We did that and in the morning both beaded creations were finished.

In all, we were really pleased with our projects. I am so happy that Zirrly came up with their Super Beads products. Now Clarissa and I can do bead projects without having to worry about an iron. I definitely recommend the Mega Pack that we received. There are also specialized packs you can order as well to make jewelry, 3D animals, or even cars and trucks. Feel free to click through the other reviews to see what others had to say about their individual packs.

Super Beads {Zirrly Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Magic Stix Washable Markers Review

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The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Clarissa loves to do art projects! We were very excited when we were chosen to review the 24 pack of Magic Stix Washable Markers made by The Pencil Grip, Inc. Clarissa said the markers looked beautiful and wanted me to take her picture immediately.

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After the picture was taken, it was time to open the box and start coloring. Clarissa was impressed with the amount of markers in the box. She didn’t know that you could get 24 markers at a time. She claimed them as “her markers” and started coloring immediately while I was making dinner.

The box made several promises that I was eager to try out. The box claims that these markers are washable, odorless, have bold and bright colors, and that they will not dry out if left uncapped for seven days. That last promise was hard for me to believe, so we created an experiment to test it out.

These markers claim to be washable. I think that is true. We didn’t get markers on our clothing at all during the testing of these markers. But we did get marker on our hands. The ink did wash off during bathtime very easily.

These markers also claim to be odorless. This is also true. There is no smell to these markers, good or bad.

The markers are bold and bright, as they claim. The colors are vibrant. I was amazed at how many different shades of blue and green and yellow we had in the box. However, the markers do bleed through the back of the paper. Clarissa colored in a coloring book and on normal paper. Both times, the colors bled through to the back.

The final promise was that the markers would not dry out, after left uncapped for seven days, guaranteed! I was doubtful, but thought that we should try it out because surely, if they dried out they would have to replace our markers. Clarissa usually likes to perform experiments so I thought that she would be excited about this. She was not. Apparently, I have made a big deal about capping her markers until now. So she had a hard time understanding that we were supposed to leave the caps off these markers. She actually snuck back into the kitchen to put the caps on later that day. I had to hide the experiment from her until the week was over.

For the experiment, I numbered each of the markers. Then I made a grid for each color. Every morning for seven days, I filled in a circle for each color on the grid.

I was surprised to discover that the markers did actually keep their full, vibrant colors, even after seven days of being uncapped.

Now that the experiment is over, Clarissa is back to using her markers regularly and putting her caps back on. We use the markers for school on a regular basis.

I highly recommend the Magic Stix Washable Markers from The Pencil Grip, Inc. They sell markers in both 12 and 24 packs on Amazon. Click here to enter my first giveaway, a 24 pack of the markers, new from the manufacturer.

Magic Stix Washable Markers {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Starfall Education Foundation Review

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Starfall

When I was a teacher, my students often used Starfall Education Foundation. Clarissa has enjoyed playing the free version of the Starfall App on her tablet for over a year so I was very excited when we were chosen to review the The Starfall Home Membership. Thirty five dollars will give you a year of access to all of the additional content on multiple devices for a full year.

Starfall

I can access my account on multiple devices so I can look at Starfall on my laptop, or Clarissa can play it on her tablet. Clarissa enjoys using the Starfall app on her tablet. She gladly plays for thirty minutes at least three days per week. I didn’t have to worry about her finding anything inappropriate in the app. She can explore and learn math concepts or work on reading skills.

She seems to really enjoy the math games. She has learned about symmetry, weight, and comparison of sizes. I was surprised that she actually understood those concepts after the lessons and games. I really liked the way Starfall explained place value. I think Clarissa actually understood the difference between tens and ones.

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There are several different levels of reading activities as well. Clarissa can choose books of different genres. I can read them to her or she can press a button that looks like an ear and the words will light up as the app reads the story to her. There are games to practice letter recognition as well as phonics lessons for individual sounds. She got used to repeating the sound after the app, so she now often repeats everything she hears because she thinks she is reading.

Clarissa enjoys playing the games, but sometimes wishes they are more customizable. For example, there is a calendar game. She learns days of week and how to read a calendar. She then gets to choose clothes to get dressed and go outside to play during the game. Because it is winter, her only choices are the current month and winter clothes. Clarissa often asks me to “switch it to summer.” But there isn’t an option to do that since it is currently winter.

I like that I can access Starfall on my computer or her tablet. The frustrating part for me is that there doesn’t seem to be any method to accomplish skills in order. There also isn’t a record of any kind. I don’t know which games or skills she has studied unless I watch her play. For example, if you go to the mouse picture, learn to read, there are 15 phonics lessons. However, it does not check them off or move you on to the next level when a lesson is completed. If you plan to really sit next to your child and tell them which things to do, then maybe that won’t bother you.

My other frustration is that Starfall Education Foundation only works with an internet connection. At home in the living room is fine, but if I want Clarissa to work on Starfall on a train or at a restaurant, I have to set up a wifi hotspot on my phone in order for it work on her tablet.

Clarissa is excited to have some tablet time to use Starfall Education Foundation. At $35 per year, I think that the The Starfall Home Membership is a worthwhile investment for preschool and kindergarten learning. There are even more advanced lessons for first and second graders. Multiple children can use Starfall as well, but they would share the same profile. There is also Parent-Teacher Center that shows a full printable curriculum to use for both preschool and kindergarten. It looks to be made for a classroom setting, but you could also follow the curriculum to use for homeschool if you wanted to. There are plenty of worksheets available as well.

The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Preschool Update

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We started officially doing preschool this summer when we started God’s Little Explorers. We started by doing lessons once or twice per week, whenever she was excited about doing school. We had a lot of fun reading books and watching Magic School Bus. She was really excited about the human body for months. We would read books about the human body. We drew pictures about the human body. We pretended to be the digestive system on the playground. We even traced Clarissa on big paper and drew the inside of the human body.

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Then, at some point I decided that I wanted to get through the Old Testament stories so that we were ready for the baby Jesus week around Christmastime. Honestly, that got a little stressful to make sure that we did four days of lessons in a week. I wanted to make sure that Clarissa still had plenty of time to go to the playground or play with friends.

We took December off to focus on Truth in the Tinsel. But Clarissa would ask for “school” one or two days per week anyway. So we would play math games and sort or count objects. She also gets a few magazines with learning activities in them. I also bought some phonics readers, learning games, and puzzles from a friend that arrived about that time. Clarissa would play read and play for hours.

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Since Christmas, I have slowed down the pace of her lessons and we have enjoyed it more. There are four lessons per week of the curriculum. So we spend two weeks talking about a Bible story and spreading out the activities. We usually end up doing school three days per week. So we usually end up doing something different on the third day. Lately that has meant working through a healthy habits/manners curriculum I found on SchoolhouseTeachers. I am also in the process of reviewing a few learning websites so Clarissa has enjoyed that extra screen time playing those games.

Clarissa seems to really like our schedule for school. It’s not everyday so that it gets boring. But if we don’t do school for a few days, she will ask for it. I think she likes reading the Bible stories. I like that we do the same story for two weeks so that by the end of the two weeks, she can tell me the story. She also likes having some free days to be able to create things. For example, recently she read a book about a girl who made her own country. Clarissa spent the entire afternoon turing her room into “Clarissavania,” complete with a national anthem, national tower, and flag.

She still isn’t thrilled about writing. But she does it now. I write the letter of the week and the number. She will trace it four times each. She does recognize the letters that we have worked on so far. She can write longer now before she gets tired, probably because Clarissa spends time coloring most days.

Clarissa does get excited about the activities though. If I try to just get by with reading the Bible story or a book and then counting or practicing letters, she knows. She will ask “but what is the activity today?”

img_20180207_102354971114659.jpgAt this pace, we will probably finish this curriculum by the time she turns 5 in August. But really, there is no rush. The beauty of homeschooling is that we aren’t bound to a specific schedule. As a more experienced homeschool mom pointed out recently, “we’ve got 18 years…”

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

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I am three and a half years into this blogging thing and I decided to try something different. This fall, I applied for and was accepted into the Homeschool Review Crew. A few times this year, I will get to try out a homeschool product with Clarissa and review it. My first assignment is the SchoolhouseTeachers.com Yearly Membership.

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}

SchoolhouseTeachers is a great website full of resources for homeschool families. There are online courses and course outlines available for all ages and subject areas. You can search by either grade or subject. There are full year courses, smaller unit studies, and single lessons available as part of your subscription.

One thing I like about the variety of lessons available is that Clarissa can look at some of the choices with me and decide what she really wants to learn about. As she gets older, this gives us so many choices without me having to do a ton of prep work which excites me.

High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}

For the purposes of this review, I focused on the courses and lessons available for preschool/kindergarten. The lessons were grouped together, so I was frustrated initially because I feel like most of them are geared toward kindergarten. There are several things that I am excited about for the fall when she is in kindergarten including a complete math curriculum that shows lessons and activities for the entire year.

I did find a lesson that I want to try with Clarissa this spring. “Manners and Healthy Habits for Preschoolers”  teaches hygiene and nutrition in a way Clarissa will understand. It focuses on how to perform skills like wash your hands, brush your teeth, take a bath, and dress yourself. But it also explains why this skill is helpful and allows you to stay healthy. There are stories, coloring pages, and charts to go with different skills. This unit also introduces germs, manners, and how following rules keeps us safe in a way that Clarissa will understand.

I was very excited when I discovered the Preschool Playground. It has everything you need for preschool curriculum in one place. There are several different Bible programs, alphabet books, math skill activities, art and music centers, science experiments, and history lessons. The preschool in a box feature has activities in all subjects grouped by month so that your activities will also follow holiday schedules, as well as book suggestions to fit these activities. If I wasn’t already using a preschool curriculum, I would use this exclusively. But I think I will supplement what we are doing during the different holidays.

Another feature of the membership is access to the Video Library. There are videos and stories to teach the information. Children can play games to sort and match letter sounds or bones of the body. There are links to classic books and nursery rhymes that show pictures and also provide audio. There is even a section to print coloring pages. Clarissa will like this section the most right now.

Access to World Book is also included in membership. The library has many different resources. Children can choose any topic to learn about. There are articles, videos, pictures, and games about anything they want to explore. Clarissa will appreciate this feature more when she is older and can actually read.

Overall, I was impressed with the features on the SchoolhouseTeachers website. I think a yearly membership would be most beneficial for a family with children of multiple ages because curriculum would be available in one place for everyone. There is a fifty percent discount if you join in January.

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Quality Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com Reviews} 

Crew Disclaimer

What we do for preschool (part 2)

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Since we have moved to Korea, I have paid more attention to when my friends get to go to conferences and conventions. I didn’t do a lot of that when we lived in Norfolk. Probably because I was either working or Clarissa was really young. But I have also discovered online conferences and conventions. Many of them are free!

In May, I spent most of the month listening to speakers from The Online Homeschool Convention while I was making dinner or doing dishes. It was pretty cool to be able to pick and choose what I wanted to listen to. And to be able to turn something off in the middle if I wasn’t really feeling it.

One thing that really resonated with me was just letting kids play when they were small. Let them learn by doing. Make learning fun. You don’t want to ruin school for them when they are small because once you lose your love of learning, it is hard to get it back.

I bought a curriculum to work on with Clarissa when she was four and for a few days, I really struggled with if I was going to do it or not. But she kept asking for school. We started God’s Little Explorers in July. The curriculum has lessons for four days per week. There is a big Bible story, theme, and letter each week. By starting in July, it gives us two weeks to do each theme so we can really take our time and have plenty of time for play.

The first week set a fun foundation to work from. We learned about the letter X. I hid all of our school supplies and put a sticky note with the letter X nearby so she could find them. She had a great time!

Clarissa has been very excited about our Bible stories. She likes that we read them multiple times and from different Bibles (The Jesus Storybook Bible and the Beginner’s Bible). She also likes that there is a theme to the books I get from the library each week. For example, when we learned about the Creation Story, our letter was G for garden so we read books about plants. There is also usually a shape to focus on and some crafts. The part Clarissa is not excited about is writing. She wrote big G just fine, but “didn’t like little g. Can I write s?” When we were talking about A for Adam and Eve, she wanted to do the letter C.

I have decided that I’m not going to push the writing at this point. She just turned four. She doesn’t have to be able to write the alphabet in order to read. So we’re just going to keep going with our curriculum since she likes most of it (and I really like it too). When she wants to write, we will. When we learned about Noah, I was able to get her to do some “rainbow letters” for C. Sometimes she will also trace words if I draw a picture first on the dry erase board.

Another component to this curriculum is learning to help around the house. Clarissa has been pretty good about bringing her dishes to the sink and putting her dirty clothes in the hamper. Since starting this curriculum she has started cutting bananas and cheese, making peanut butter sandwiches, and peeling carrots. She also wants to decorate her own pizza. I recently made a chore chart for Clarissa. She likes moving the magnets when she finishes her chore. She has actually complied with the, “you have to do these chores before you can ___” part also.

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Clarissa gets really excited to do school after dinner. Probably because she walks by where I keep all of her school stuff. So she will just pick out an activity to do. We have several dry erase books to work on letters or numbers. She has matching cards for opposites. We recently learned to play “go fish.”

Another thing I bought for her was a peel and stick dry erase world map from the px. When we read a book or watch something on tv where they talk about another place, we will walk over to the map and look for it. Sometimes the map gets pretty messy with drawings of penguins on Antarctica, Nemo near Australia, or pyramids in Egypt. And sometimes she just scribbles over it. But that’s the beauty of dry erase. And while she’s scribbling, she’s building her hand muscles so she’ll want to write more, in theory anyway…

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They offer both gymnastics and ballet on post, so I was planning to let her pick which one she wanted to do. For most of the summer, ballet was the frontrunner so she could wear her tutu. When it was time to sign up, she changed her mind. She said she wants to take classes when she’s 5. So we’ll wait on that for now. The beauty of military life is that you can register at any point during the year so we don’t have to wait until next fall if she decides she wants to take classes earlier. I did however register her for AWANA. She loves Vacation Bible School so I think she will like AWANA as well.

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you order God’s Little Explorers through this post, I will make a small commission. However, it does not add to your cost.

What we do for preschool (part 1)

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With everyone sharing pictures of the first day of school/preschool the past few weeks, I thought I would share what Clarissa has been doing for preschool.

Clarissa has an August birthday so she will always be one of the youngest in her class. For most of age three, she rarely woke up before 8 AM. Add to that, that I get to be a stay at home mom while we live in Korea. We decided to keep her home for preschool.

At three years old, I feel like it is really important that Clarissa gets to play and be creative. I bought some Usborne sticker books , wipe away books, and flap books to teach colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. We worked on them whenever she asked for “her school books.”

We read a lot of books! She likes to “read” me the stories too. At first, it was the stories that we had read a thousand times so she almost had them memorized anyway. But now she will pick up a book that we have never read before, look at the pictures, and tell me the story. Sometimes she even reads “in her head.” She often asks to go to the library.

Clarissa has a lot of toys that inspire imagination. We inherited a doll house and a play kitchen last year. She also loves to play with legos. She also helped me a lot in the kitchen with counting tablespoons or mixing things in the bowl. Cookie cutters and sprinkles are probably her favorite part of cooking though. For the first half of three she really liked to paint and play with play doh. Then she moved on to making pictures with stickers or by cutting and glueing.

Clarissa loves to go on vacation and to museums. We make sure to hit up the children’s museum and an aquarium or zoo every place we go. Science museums seem to be hit or miss, depending on if there is enough English for us to explain the science to her. But she loves to watch or read Magic School Bus.

At the end of the day, I want her to enjoy learning. She recognizes her letters and numbers to 12. She actually understands what it means to have six bears. I think social development is also a big deal in preschool. Clarissa has  playdates regularly so she is learning to share and play with others. She can follow simple directions.

I did buy a more formal curriculum to do with her while she is four. But even then, I plan to be pretty relaxed and take our time with it.