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

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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Our favorite books for three year olds

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

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

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

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

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

Our favorite books for four year olds

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

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

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

Our Favorite Christmas Books for preschool and young elementary

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

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

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

 

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

Messy Learning Review

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Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Starfall Education Foundation Review

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Starfall

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

Starfall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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