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.

Amazon lets me make my kindle books free for five days every 90 days, so I try to go in to my promotions and make it free on holidays so it’s easier for me to remember. So the next time you can download it for free would be Monday, September 4, 2018 for Labor Day. Now Amazon also has a feature that you can actually order a print copy of the book, so you can order that way if you prefer. But I can’t make that version free because of the cost of printing the book.

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.

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