Zirrly Bead Review


*******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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.

Homeschool Curriculum for Everybody - {SchoolhouseTeachers.com Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

What we do for preschool (part 2)


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.


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…


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.

What we do for preschool (part 1)


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.