AAR-Review

In our house, we are all about reading.  I have always been a reader and monkey see monkey do….the girls are turning into BIG readers as well (and it makes my heart so happy to see).

I tried different phonics curriculums when I was first beginning to teach Avery to read but I really didn’t like any of them.  So I went rogue and just taught her to read in the most basic way…we did what we always did and we just kept reading.  It worked.  She can read.  She just got a booklight for her 8th birthday and when I walk past her room at night, I just smile when I see her snuggled up with her stack of books.

But learning to read and becoming more fluent in reading has made her HUNGRY!  She is voracious, she wants more.  I didn’t jive with those first reading curriculums I tried so I was very happy to find All About Reading now.  Avery loves it and I love it!

AAR blog

All About Reading is such a great curriculum that comes with everything that you need!  Seriously, so much BANG for your buck! Avery is in 2nd/3rd grade and the level 3 set is included in the Timberdoodle Second Grade Curriculum Kit.  If you aren’t sure what level your child needs (because us homeschoolers are never sure what grade they are in, lol), they have a placement test and plenty of PDF samples of the materials so you can find the level best for your kiddo.  The level 3 set includes a student activity book, a teacher’s manual, 2 readers (collections of short stories), a reading review box, phonogram cards, word cards, and letter tiles.  Of course, momma’s favorite part of the set is the carry all tote!  We frequently take our work outside or even to the park so I love having the tote to keep all of our AAR stuff together and ready to go wherever we take our school!

AAR1 blog

 

The tiles and the cards are great manipulatives to make the concepts more concrete.  Even though the name says All About READING, this program is much more than that.  In addition to reading, the program also teaches decoding, fluency, comprehension, and more.

AAR3 blog

Avery is loving it.  As I said before, now that she can read, she is hungry for more.  She loves learning new rules and finding words that break the rules.  The readers are great for her…easy enough that she doesn’t get frustrated but enough new words and material that she is working and learning.  There is an activity page in each lesson that keeps them engaged and using their hands while they use their brains.  We are only on lesson 5 but already, Avery has mastered new skills and is learning new rules.  Before, she might have known how to pronounce certain words but now she knows WHY they are pronounced that way.

Momma loves that this is an open and go curriculum.  Everything is laid out for me lesson by lesson.  I don’t have to prepare or plan.  This is so helpful because many of our other subjects do require a lot of prepping…it is great to have something that is done for me.

In a family of readers, it was hard for me to find a reading curriculum that kept the love alive and didn’t dull down reading into a boring requirement.  I have now found it!  All About Reading teaches in a way that keeps kids engaged and excited about reading.

On Timberdoodle’s website, you can buy All About Reading-Level 3 on its own or you can get it in the Second Grade Curriculum Kit.

AAR2 blog

*Timberdoodle Review: Timberdoodle sent me this product in exchange for a review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Advertisements

Draw + Learn: Faces

Draw + Learn: Faces

I think I’ve mentioned before that my artistic skills are lacking.  My level is stick people.  I can draw a decent stick person.  More than that is pushing it.  I remember one time when Avery was 3 or 4 and we were drawing.  I drew a shark and she asked me what it was.  I told her and she thought about it for a minute.  She said “Well, if you tell me that it’s an airplane, I’ll say it’s really good.”  Apparently, it was a pretty bad shark but my sweet lady didn’t want to say that.  So, that pretty much says it all about my artistic capabilities.

So when I find a step by step book that helps my little ladies (and maybe me too) learn drawing basics, I am all in with it!  Timberdoodle’s Draw + Learn Faces was a definite hit with us!  Recommended ages are 3-6.  I used it with my 7 and 4 year olds.

DSC_0267

This book is included in the Preschool Curriculum Kit but I have it on good authority that it is helpful to anyone who needs a step by step drawing guide (ages up to….uh, 32 at least).  The book starts with pages focusing on each facial feature and different ways to draw them.  The kiddos get to practice each of those individually before combining them later on in the book.  My girls loved the silly aspect of drawing faces on flowers, potatoes, ice cream cones, etc.  I loved that it added to their imagination and creativity.  Reminded them that they could make any inanimate object into a character.

DSC_0271DSC_0273

There are several pages towards the end with blank frames for them to combine what they have learned and draw their own faces (theirs or just their own creations).  Before using this book, my girls each had one way that they tended to always draw certain facial features (whether that was my own poor art direction or just habit).  I loved how this helped them to branch out and gave several different examples of how to draw each feature.  Eyes with eyebrows. Eyes with lashes. With glasses.  Full lips.  Smiles with teeth and without.  My other favorite thing about this book is the doodle aspect.  How intimidating would it be to learn to draw in a professionally illustrated book?  I love that the pictures in this book are drawn in a doodle format.  Simple lines and shapes put together to make faces.  Bright, bold colors but not too much intricate detail.  I think that really helped the girls own the drawings.

DSC_0283

DSC_0291

Draw + Learn: Faces was another Timberdoodle win for this family! There are others in the series including places, animals, and people.  I am planning on getting those too….maybe for an upcoming birthday or Easter baskets.  Paired with a new set of colored pencils and it would make a super cute gift!

We received a copy of this book from Timberdoodle to review.  All opinions are my own.

Wikki Stix Alphabet

Back in February we went on vacation to Maui and on the airplane, my girls received coloring books and samples of Wikki Stix from the flight attendants (seriously, A+ Alaskan Airlines!).  The girls loved the Wikki Stix and spent a good portion of the flight playing with them.  For a mom traveling with 2 small kids, anything that keeps them occupied is a total win in my book.

Imagine how awesome it was to see that Timberdoodle carries Wikki Stix and that they are used in an educational capacity! Timberdoodle has the Wikki Stix Alphabet in their Pre-K Curriculum Kit which is perfect for Kaylee’s age!

wikki stix blog1

Kaylee is 4.5 and is right in the middle of mastering her letters.  She knows most of them well enough that she sometimes gets bored doing the standard alphabet workbooks but she does need more practice to master them.  This Wikki Stix Alphabet set is perfect for her to keep practicing her letters while switching up to something new and different and FUN!

Wikki Stix are easy to use and easy to manipulate.  They bend and flex in the tiniest hands and you just push them gently onto the boards to stick.  The boards clean up with a dry paper towel without leaving a sticky mess around (because we’ve got enough of those already).  As per the instructions, we cut a few of them into halves and thirds but the girls were also happy to fold them over as needed.  Try as Kaylee might, they don’t just tear apart which is awesome if you have a little honey badger like I have 😉

Even 6.5 year old Avery got into it!  Since she wanted to try them out too, I gave her the boards with b and d since she still occasionally mixes those up.  She also went “rogue” and started spelling her name and small words with the Wikki Stix.

wikki stix blog3

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite things about Timberdoodle curriculum is that it is FUN and the girls don’t necessarily see it as “doing schoolwork.”  Wikki Stix Alphabet totally fits into that category!  The girls love it and choose it during free play time, in addition to when we work it into school time.

wikki stix blog2

Anything that puts such huge smiles on my girls’ face is worth every penny….the fact that its educational?  A serious bonus!

 

Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own!

Electro Dough

We are at that point in the school year where I am cleaning out the curriculum closet to make room for the new stuff.  I’m basically going through everything to see what I still want the girls to finish, what we never used and can sell/trash, and I’m even finding treasures that I had forgotten about.

One of those was the DIY Electro Dough Kit from techwillsaveus.com  I had ordered this at the beginning of last year in our Timberdoodle kit with the idea that the girls could do it with dad (he worked as an apprentice electrician for a number of years and his dad is an electrician).  The major problem with that plan?  I’m not sure I ever told dad about it or I might have mentioned it briefly but then stuck it in the curriculum closet where he never goes!  And here I was, wondering why he never did it with them….whoops!

We finally took it out today and played with it.  We had a ton of fun but the kit is seriously lacking in instruction/explanation.  The kit has the dough recipe and some brief examples of easy circuits you can make to get started.  No explanation of what the parts are or WHY it works so it helped that we had an electrician making with us, lol.  You can go to their website for more advanced projects and the manual which goes more in depth in the terminology and the WHYs.  So it really depends on your own personal knowledge of electricity and circuits as to whether or not you would need the manual—I need it to help me explain why/how you can turn the lights and buzzer on with play dough but dad didn’t need it.

The thing that I really love about this kit is that we can keep it and do this again as much as we like.  At their ages, the girls LOVED the novelty of getting the lights to turn on using play dough but they weren’t totally interested in the concepts behind it.  But as their curiosity grows or if they have a unit on electricity in their next science course, we can pull it back out, make a new batch of dough, and keep playing and learning!

So for now, this will get put back into the curriculum closet and hopefully not forgotten about this time…

Tinkerlab

Where do you go when you need inspiration, validation, or just new ideas?  Do you have a favorite homeschool mama author or book?

We have a pretty good art table at our house that the girls use often but I don’t often plan or teach art projects.  I grabbed Rachelle Doorley’s book Tinkerlab recently during a sale and I have been loving it!  I was looking for artsy ideas and projects for my little ladies but I found so much more than that.  I was totally surprised to find that I really loved the introduction, the how & why to create a tinkerlab, and the real life examples and experiences.  I loved this part so much that I’m looking for other homeschool mom inspirational books (hence, my request for your favorites).

This book also made me realize that we’re already headed in the right direction with our art table.  Here I was thinking that I was doing something wrong because we weren’t doing organized art projects. When in fact, having that open, free range art space is part of the GOAL.  We have that.  Our art table has paper, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, sequins, feathers, pom poms, stickers, pipe cleaners, stamps, etc etc that the girls are always free to use and create.  Our art table is over a carpeted floor so paint is a mom-supervision-required medium but everything else is a free for all (even glitter, much to my husband’s dismay).  And the girls use the space daily.  Their daily use is what made me seek out more guided art projects.

Although we are doing well with our easily accessible art space, the Tinkerlab book has so many more ideas.  There are 4 sections in the book: design, build, concoct, and discover.  Each section focuses on a different element of the creative mind.  The experiments and set ups in the book are mostly EASY to do and don’t require much more than what I already have at home.  There are a few ideas in the build category that involve small toy motors and wire strippers that I’ll leave to my husband….

So many great ideas for getting them to explore and discover without telling them what to do.  I love that instead of projects, this book has set-ups.  Give your child materials and see what they can come up with instead of telling them what to make.  I love this!

As I was reading, I got a quick set-up going for my girls.  I gave them paint with q-tips, feathers, pom poms, and plastic forks.  Once they got going, I sent them on a scavenger hunt around the house for anything that they thought would be fun to paint with….the only rule was NO actual paintbrushes.  This wasn’t a set-up that was directly out of the book but as I was reading, I was catching on to the idea.

A little mess can create a LOT of fun!

A little mess can create a LOT of fun!

And now I have 500 beautiful paintings to admire....

And now I have 500 beautiful paintings to admire….

 

(I bought my copy of Tinkerlab from Timberdoodle. No strings, I wasn’t asked to write about it….just sharing something I love.)

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!

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