Curriculum Review: ThinkPlay STEM Junior

One of the reasons we picked Timberdoodle curriculum was because we loved the focus on thinking skills, STEM, and hands-on activities.  ThinkPlay Junior fits right in with that and we’re loving it!  We love building blocks and Legos so I was pretty sure that this would be a great fit for our curriculum.  The best part is that I do not have to work these into our daily schedule, my girls choose this as a free time activity and just as regular play.

ThinkPlay Junior is included in Timberdoodle’s preK curriculum kit but the recommended ages are 4-8.  I was actually looking at getting the ThinkPlay Advanced because we’re doing K-1st with Avery this year but Junior was on sale during the damaged/closeout sale so we went with that (and no damage that I can see on ours!).  I figured that if it was too easy for Avery, we could use it for Kaylee’s preschool.

ThinkPlay1_blog.jpg

As it turns out, its great for both girls!  The pieces are interlocking and can be stacked as well.  This set includes 400 pieces…blocks, wheels, different connectors, etc.  The blocks are brightly colored and different shapes. It comes in a great tub with a locking lid (which is great if your kiddos also have a tendency to knock it off the shelf).  There is a spiral bound idea book and also some bigger poster-size idea pages.  There are different levels of difficulty in the book too, Avery can do a lot on her own but the bigger projects are great for all of us to do together.  Kaylee (3 yrs) sometimes has a hard time interlocking the pieces by herself but she’s getting the hang of it.  Last night, we built a whole scene….the sun, 2 different flowers, a butterfly, and a bug. Fun for the whole family!

We will definitely get a lot of use out of this set and I am so glad we decided to add it!  The possibilities are endless and the possibilities can expand as their little minds do too.

*I was not paid or solicited to review this item and I paid the normal (sale!!) price for it. Just sharing a product that we love!

Advertisements

Curriculum Love!

Timberdoodle recently had a warehouse sale and we were able to pick up quite a few things that we will use in our curriculum!! One of things that I love about TD is the focus on STEM and critical thinking skills.  So many of their recommended materials are FUN and engaging!

Here is what we picked up during the sale:

*Logik Street (board game, brain teasers, critical thinking)

*ThinkPlay STEM Junior

*Imagination Patterns

*Brainfood Doodle Mats (USA, geography, states)

*Our Blue Planet (puzzle, geography)

*Grow to Know Mazes

*My First Maze Book

*Usborne Illustrated Science Dictionary

curriculum1

I think the best part is that the girls are both over the moon with everything!!  They have not stopped playing with this new stuff since it arrived.  We get our mail pretty late in the day (6 pm) so when we opened it up and went through everything, of course we needed to stay up a little late to play!  And then the next morning….they went straight to the imagination patterns and thinkplay building blocks.  Normally in the mornings, they are allowed tv or tablets (because, let’s be real–mom needs 2 cups of coffee before she functions).

But they SKIPPED ELECTRONICS in favor of LEARNING MATERIALS!!!  Of course, they don’t know that this is “curriculum”, they just think they got new toys for no reason but we’ve got a good thing going so I’m not going to ruin that by labeling things unnecessarily 😉

Curriculum2.jpg

 

Choosing a Curriculum

I am planning on buying a boxed curriculum for our Kindergarten/First Grade year.  Since this will be our first ‘serious’ year homeschooling, I just want to have that guide and that assurance that I am doing it right.  I think it will help me to be confident that I am not leaving anything out, that I am keeping on course for the year, and that I CAN DO THIS!

I am leaning towards using Timberdoodle.  I have researched the included materials, read the reviews, etc.  It seems like a great mix of academics while remembering that its for a 5-6 year old and making it fun for her too!  I have found so many great boxed curriculums but many of them are very heavy on the religious aspect.  Because our family is not very religious, I feel like I would have to omit or alter too much of those curriculums to fit our family.  Timberdoodle has both a secular curriculum AND a build-your-own curriculum that I feel is going to work out great for us.  I am able to make a Kindergarten-First Grade hybrid set to meet Avery exactly where she is in each subject.

Do you used a boxed curriculum? Do you piece together your own?  What are some of your favorites?  Bonus points if they are in the kindergarten/1st grade range!!

Pushin’ It

Some people might see what A and I do for our school time and think that maybe I’m pushing her.  We do a lot and a lot of it is sit down, book work.  This is what A likes and requests.  If we go on a walk and I tell her about the nature and environment around us, she doesn’t see that as school.  If we do a worksheet about the same stuff…that’s school to A.  We do both but she requests what she views as school and I’m happy to accommodate her.  I am not standing over her with a ruler forcing her to work in hopes that she will be the next child genius (although she is very smart, girl has potential!).

In the homeschool world, I am seeing “unschooling” come up a lot (I haven’t been in the HS world very long but it seems to be an increasing trend/method.).  Compared to that, our workbooks, worksheets, and flashcards might seem like overkill for a 4 year old.  I do not personally think that SCHOOL must be done at a desk with a #2 pencil.  But if that is how my kid learns, I’m pleased as punch to sharpen that pencil.  The thing that is important to me, is that I’m fostering a love of learning in my children and that they always explore the world around them.  Right now, how we do school is dictated by A and her personality. In another year, we will see how K learns best and change things up to accommodate her learning style as well.

workbook

The workbook she is using here is Brain Games-Kindergarten.  My biggest complaint about it is that the answers are on the direct opposite page.  She cant turn the pages herself or she’ll see the answers before she has a chance to answer herself.  So far, A hasn’t been introduced to any new concepts but this workbook is definitely keeping her skills sharp.  When she gets towards the end of the book, there are some money (coin) and directional (East-West) concepts that will be new for her. This is great to keep kids thinking during school breaks or as a homeschool workbook!

Ride on the Magic School Bus!

One thing that A is constantly asking is to do science experiments.  We have pretty much exhausted all of the science projects that I know (or found on pinterest)….volcanos, walking water, oobleck, color changing milk, shaving cream rain clouds.  I feel like that’s a pretty good repertoire of preschool age experiments but we do them pretty frequently so we need to get some new material.

science

With Netflix, A has recently gotten into the Magic School Bus!  I had added some of the MSB science kits to my wishlist on amazon but they are $15-40/each so I hadn’t bought any yet.  I was pretty excited when a deal came through my email for a MSB club.  A will get a kit per month for an entire year!  The deal was through Educents for $120 for the year….a total steal compared to the amazon prices!!  I have heard this kit comes up on Groupon occasionally too so if you’re interested, shop around and don’t pay full price.

Our first kit will be coming next week sometime and is going to be a stars and planets kit.  I believe THIS is our first kit.  I am pretty excited and haven’t told A yet so she will be thrilled!  I’ll be sure to post a review when we get it…we’re going on vacation at the beginning of July so I’m crossing my fingers it gets here quickly!

(I started this blog on another forum and am transitioning to wordpress. Post was originally published on June 18, 2015.)

Gallery

Materials

While we do educate everywhere, our version of homeschool does include sit-down, desk, workbook style learning as well.  We are not unschooling over here but if that’s your thing, its cool with me.  I need structure.  I need a planner (though I don’t always follow it or even fill it out).  I need to be able to keep track of things so I know I’m remembering to cover all the important stuff.

Although it hasn’t been our goal (but let’s face it, it’s always my goal to save a buck), we are finding it is incredibly doable to homeschool on a budget.  The target dollar spot is a pretty awesome resource!   And I always walk the clearance aisles of wherever I’m at.  So many great finds.  And Goodwill or whatever resale shop you have.

First and foremost, books.  All the books.  I strongly believe books should be the most used material for all children, homeschooled or not.

11053111_10102688108605830_7070258067301214948_n

These were all found at our local Goodwill for $10!

DSC_0083

These are the majority of our materials.  All but one of the workbooks and flashcards were from the Target dollar spot.  The math set and space puzzle were clearance at Walmart.  Preschool prep was on group-on.  I probably paid full price for the Melissa and Doug stuff but I also most likely gave them to A as gifts.materials

Quite a bit of our worksheets and ideas came from Pinterest!  It has such a great collection of printable, free materials….and as a bonus, we actually used these pins whereas many of our recipe or DIY pins are mostly just for show 😉  Once we are out of the preschool/kinder stage, I’m not sure how much we will be able to find for free online so we are taking advantage while we can!  These are some examples of materials we have found through pinterest.  You can find them all on my everyday learning board but it might take some digging.  I don’t know the specific blogs or sites that these ones came from but going forward, I’ll link to them specifically.

pinterestpages

(*I started this blog on another forum but am transitioning to wordpress. This post was originally posted on June 15, 2015.)