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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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

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

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}

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Pathway to Liberty Review

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As we are getting ready to move back to the United States after being in South Korea for the past four years, I have been thinking about what Social Studies I wanted to work on with Clarissa. I thought that something with US History and Geography would be a good fit so she could learn about her home country while we are actually living there. This is one reason I was so excited to review Pathway to Liberty’s History Curriculum by Pathway to Liberty.

Pathway to Liberty has four different history curricula to choose from: Universal History, The Middle Ages, US History, and World History. We chose US History Level 1.  There are multiple levels of each curriculum so that families with multiple students can use the same curriculum with independent work at each student’s level: Kindergarten to third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade, or tenth through twelfth grade. If I had multiple students, that would be something that would definitely draw me to this curriculum since it would be less preparation for me and my children would have common lessons to talk about together.

I did like that there was a Teacher Guide and a Student Guide. The Teacher Guide was helpful because it showed a lesson plan that you could use for all four levels of curriculum. Since we have level one, I had the answer key for level one work only. So if I were going to use this for multiple ages, I would probably go ahead and buy the Teacher Guide for each level that I was using. But it was helpful for me to see how it would work to use the same curriculum for multiple ages of children. The Student Guide was laid out almost identical to the Teacher Guide except that there were places for the student to fill in the blank. The text was also larger for younger eyes and bigger handwriting. I also liked that both guides were spiral bound which makes it easier to flip the pages and keep the material together. 

The first two weeks are a foundation of history and it seems like they would be the same in each of the four curricula. You learn about what history is, creation, Moses and the Ten Commandments, as well as Martin Luther and the Reformation. There is vocabulary to learn for each lesson depending on grade level.

The actual US History itself started with Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. Then it went on to the Great Awakening before the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the events leading up to the Civil War. So US History would end after the Civil War with this curriculum. But I like that it shows history from a faith perspective instead of what I learned of US History in public school.

I will say that although they advertise level one as kindergarten through third grade, we were nowhere near ready for this curriculum. The content was great and meaty. But it was pretty writing intensive and my kindergartner did not understand much of the content. We did the basic foundations lessons and I think we will go back to this content when she is in second grade to really study the history. There are plenty of maps and pictures in both the Teacher Guides and Student Guides. There are also youtube videos that go with several of the lessons.

To learn about using multiple levels of the curriculum together, or one of the other history curriculum, you can read other reviews here. Their website says that they offer a 20% discount to active duty military families.

Universal History,  The Middle Ages,  US History & World History Curriculum {Pathway to Liberty Homeschool Curriculum Reviews}

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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