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