Forbrain ~ Review

When AJ (13) reads out loud she often mispronounces larger words. When I correct her, her response is almost always, “That’s what I said.” I don’t know if she says that out of embarrassment because she doesn’t want me to correct her, or of she really thinks that she says the word correctly. She also has a hard time reading at a decent pace. She will read part of a sentence and pause and then other times she will not take a breath and smash three of four sentences into a single breath. When she reads like that it makes it hard for me to understand what she is reading and makes it hard for her to remember what she has read. It is something we have been working on and we have seen improvements, but not very quickly. I didn’t think there was anything to help her, but then I learned about Forbrain – Sound for Life Ltd.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
Forbrain is a bone conduction headset. The child, or adult, puts on the headset on and adjusts the microphone the needed distance. Then they simply read, talk, or complete a variety of exercises. In very simple terms when you speak into the headset you are able to hear yourself. I recommend looking at the website where the science behind the product is explained because it is very interesting. It claims to help with reading difficulties, speech issues, attention issues, and memory issues. After learning all about Forbrain I thought it would be a good fit for AJ.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review
Forbrain is designed to be used daily for six to ten weeks for the best results. When it arrived we plugged it into the computer to charge and then I just let AJ play around with it for a little bit. She instantly liked how it felt and how she could hear herself in her head. After she got use to it I had her read out loud while wearing it. I also had her work on things she was memorizing while she was wearing it. She enjoyed just wearing it around the house sometimes.

I instantly noticed that she was more focused on her work when she was wearing the headset. I didn’t have to constantly tell her to do her work. I also noticed that the longer she wore it the more she began to read at a consistent rate. She also seemed to catch herself and correct herself when she would mispronounce a word. I didn’t notice any difference in her reading comprehension so far, but it is recommended to be used for six to ten weeks, so maybe we will see more improvement when we get closer to the ten week mark instead of the six week mark.

The issue that I noticed is that while she had improvements when she was wearing the headset, I didn’t see those same improvements once she took the headset off. When she took the headset off the same issues seemed to return. I was expecting to see results that would transfer even when the headset was off.

Even though she seems to need the headset on to improve, I plan to have her continue with Forbrain after summer vacation. I plan to have her wear it during poetry memorization, some reading out loud, and when she is working on learning the places for different countries in her geography course.

AJ says she doesn’t notice any difference in her reading, but she does like to wear it because she likes that she can hear herself better. She says it does help her to focus though and I never realized that she had problems focusing. Overall we are pleased with the results that we have seen so far and we hope to see more in the future.

Forbrain is an expensive product, but I think it would be a lot cheaper than speech therapy. If your child has significant difficulties this may be the answer.

Find out what other members of the crew thought about Forbrain by clicking on the graphic below.

Forbrain – Sound For Life Ltd Review

Homeschooling an Only Child


Homeschooling an only child has a lot of benefits and some draw backs as well. I think it is easier to go off on rabbit trails and go deep into some subjects when you homeschool an only child.  Tweaking one schedule because we decided to spend a month learning about Ancient Egypt or volcanoes has to be easier than trying to rearrange the schedule for three kids.  On the other hand, there aren’t any other kids to answer some of the questions, or to bring different ideas to the table.  Homeschooling an only child lets me focus all of my attention on her. The downside to that is that when I am always available, sometimes she doesn’t try to do things herself. Like anything in life, there are positives and negatives to homeschooling an only child. If you have an only child, don’t let that keep you from homeschooling. Overall it has been a very rewarding journey!

We homeschool with a very eclectic approach and as much hands on learning as possible. While we really don’t have a normal day, I wanted to share what a day in our homeschooling life looked like when AJ was in 6th grade. The day I am sharing is was a Thursday – one of the few days we didn’t have to go somewhere outside of the house. The way we do school changes as our needs change. Currently our school day looks a lot differently because I am still recovering from surgery. I hope you enjoy a look inside our school day.  Parts of this post were previously published at Homeschool Mosaics, but sadly that site no longer exists.

Our day really starts the night before, when I quickly prep the classroom (our garage) for the next day’s work. I pull out any worksheets, write her morning work, and write a list of goals that we need to accomplish the following day.

6 reasons why we have a school room

We try to start our day early, and by early I mean waking up around 7:30am. I know that is sleeping in to some, but getting up before that doesn’t usually happen around here. After she finally wakes up and takes a shower, then she gets dressed and does a few chores, (making her bed, feeding the dog, putting the dishes away) before breakfast. After breakfast, she finishes getting ready and we do a quick clean up of the house and make sure my mom and grandma have anything they need before we start school.

At about 9:30 we make our way out to the classroom and she goes over her list of work that she needs to finish.

She has to do her morning work first, the rest of the subjects she can do in any order. The morning work for today is a logic puzzle. Some days there are sentences for her to correct, a difficult math problem, or questions where she has to find answers using things in the classroom. An example would be to name the 21st president, or list two countries in Africa. I try to switch it up, but keep the routine the same.

She works out the logic puzzle on her easel.

Next it is time for copywork. I usually get my copywork from but today I decided to copy a paragraph out of the book she is reading, Matilda.

Today she decided to start with history. We are using Diana Waring’s History Revealed Ancient Civilizations and the Bible. It is a unit study approach to history and is so much fun. Today we started a new unit all about the Exodus. AJ started off by listening to the audio part of her history called, What in the World? While listening, she colored a picture out of the What’s in the Bible? coloring book.

After listening to the CD, it was time for a brain break. She rode her bike for about 15 minutes while I wrote the key concepts for the history chapter on the whiteboard.

When she came back in she went over the Key topics and Key people that we would be learning about.

Then it was time to learn about the pyramids. First she read a few pages in a library book.

Only Child10

Next, she made a pyramid fact chart, and then she made a paper pyramid that I found at Don’t Eat the Paste.

Then, it was time for her least favorite subject – literature. She likes the book we are reading, Matilda, but dislikes reading and writing. After she finished reading the two chapters and did a few worksheets, it was time for lunch.

While I started getting everyone lunch (it takes a while because I can’t stand too long) she began working on her math. We are using Key to Fractions. We love it. Everything is explained step by step, and the workbooks are consumable so she can write right in them.

After lunch she finishes her math on the easel.

Math is more exciting on the whiteboard.

Then it’s time to take the dog for a walk, or in AJ’s case, a run.

Next up is science. This year we are studying earth science. We are finishing up our study of volcanoes. While I read a few pages to AJ, she started cutting out her lapbooks.

Then, using the information I had read to her and a few library books, she filled in her lapbooks.

Lap books are a great way to add in hands on learning

We reviewed what we learned the day before when we erupted our volcano, and then our book work for the day was finished.

The volcano she made

Even though the book work is finished, there is still more learning to come. It’s time for cooking. AJ is learning how to cook a few things at a time. Today she decided she wanted to try and cook everything. She made tacos (under my supervision), beans, and rice. She did a great job.

Later in the evening, we made sugar cookies for a play-date she is having to decorate cookies.

When our day was finally finished, we watched some TV, relaxed and then got ready for bed.

It was a great day of learning. We were able to go in deep with some subjects and really have fun with learning. Not every day is this successful, and some days we get more done. It really depends on the day.

The Glass Castle ~ Review

AJ is quite particular about the types of books that she enjoys reading or listening to. She has broadened the types of genres that she enjoys over the past few years, but if it isn’t about animals or an exciting adventure then she most likely isn’t going to enjoy it. According to her a book is only good if she can see the story in her head and really feel like she is on an adventure with the characters. When we were asked to review The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins from Shiloh Run Press I was a little hesitant. I didn’t think she would want to read another book when we were so close to the end of the school year. Then I read a phrase about the book, “The setting of Chronicles of Narnia meets the adventure of Alice in Wonderland.” After reading that, I thought it would be something that AJ would enjoy.

The Glass Castle, an exciting adventure story perfect for middle grade kids!

The Glass Castle is a 251 page hard-covered book that is broken into 41 chapters. It is an action and adventure book for middle grade students. There are quite a few moral lessons woven through the book along with a few Bible verses. Even though prayer and God are mentioned a few times throughout the book I personally would not consider it a faith based book. I think that most kids with a fifth grade reading level or above would be able to read it independently.

It was a great book and AJ would give it 5 out of 5 stars. That is a big complement coming from her.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
(There are some spoilers below)

The Glass Castle follows the story of 13 year old Avery. She is walking with her brother and feels like she is being followed, and it turned out she was. She ends up being kidnapped and is later told that her brother was taken as well, but that she wouldn’t be able to see him. Avery ends up in a room with a bunch of thirteen year old orphans. The only problem is that Avery isn’t an orphan, or is she?

After some exploring Avery realizes that she knows where she is, not because she had been there before, but because her mother had told her all about it in stories when she was little. Avery thought those stories were just fairy tales, but it turns out that they weren’t. Avery realizes that they are all in the castle of an evil King. For some reason the King had ordered all 13 year old orphans to be destroyed and the kids were all being held in the castle for their own protection. She soon learns that the kids all do work in the castle, and really they almost run it. From dress making to baking, they do it all. These 13 year olds are much wiser than their years. She becomes friends with a girl, Kate, who seems to know much more than any one else.

Avery wants to escape and return home, but she is told her brother will be harmed if she leaves. Just when she is about to try and escape the kids decide to elect a child king to be in charge. A kind boy named Tuck ends up being elected King, and surprising everyone he appoints Avery as the new queen.

She needs to find out more about the castle and why they are all there. Upon exploring the castle she learns that the King is sick and needs an heir to his thrown. But that isn’t all she finds out. Who was the first Queen, and why did her mother know so much about the castle? Who can she trust, and are her feelings for a boy clouding her judgment? Will the kids escape?

Unfortunately, by the end of the book you won’t have the answers to most of those questions. I am all for series of books and cliffhanger endings, but I hate when a book ends and the majority of the problems haven’t been solved. Especially when the next book won’t be available for a few months! I really felt this book needed at least one more chapter to tie in some loose ends and I hope that the next book is able to answer those questions. I look forward to reading the next one, I am sure it will be as good as this one.

I wanted to read a few chapters a day to AJ, but we got busy with school and doctors and just didn’t seem to find to sit down and read the book. I sat aside an entire school day where we did nothing but read the book. It turned out to be a good thing, because we wouldn’t have wanted to put it down after a few chapters. I expected some complaining from AJ, but she didn’t want me to stop reading. I read the book to her in a little more than five hours, and it was a very thrilling experience. From the first chapter to the end we were learning new details, making discoveries, and attempting to figure things out. I’ll admit that I kept reading ahead because the story was so intriguing.

One thing that I really liked about the book was that it was clean. There wasn’t any magic or witches, and while there was some obvious chemistry between a few characters there wasn’t as much as a kiss between them. There is mention of a drunk man and a few people die, but there were no details. I really think that most parents would be comfortable with their child reading The Glass Castle.

If you have a kid who enjoys adventure and mystery, then The Glass Castle may be just the book for them. Mom will probably like it too.

Find out what other reviewers had to say about The Glass Castle by clicking the graphic below.

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}

MaxScholar ~ Review

AJ’s reading skills have improved a lot over the last two years, but she still isn’t at grade level. We have had mixed results with online reading programs in the past because AJ gets frustrated with them. When I saw the variety of activities offered from MaxScholar I thought that it would be a good fit for AJ. Over the past few weeks she has been working on the MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs. Using games, interesting topics, and instant feedback, your child can have fun while improving vital skills.

MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review
We received a one year license to the MaxGuru program which gives your student access to: MaxPhonics, MaxReading, MaxWords, MaxMusic, MaxVocab, MaxBios, and depending on the assigned level MaxPlaces.

When your student logs on to MaxScholar they are given a pretest and are then assigned a level. I have to say that the way levels are assigned seems a little odd to me. AJ answered all of the questions correctly and then went onto a vocabulary hangman game where she didn’t guess the word. She ended up being placed in level 2. In level 2 she did not have access to the MaxPlaces section of the program. The majority of AJ’s time was spent on MaxReading, MaxWords, and MaxMusic.

In MaxReading the student picks a book that they want to read. Level 2 has six different books that each have a number of chapters. AJ instantly picked the book, Australia and eagerly began. The first step is vocabulary. Vocabulary words are highlighted and if the student doesn’t know what the word mean they can click on the word to see the definition, a synonym, and the word used in a sentence.

Reading 1

Next the student reads the passage. Then they highlight the topic, the main idea, and important details. This was the first time that AJ has highlighted a passage in that way so she found it difficult at first, but it became easier over time. Once the student is finished highlighting they see the correct highlighting and receive a score based on how closely theirs matches the one on the screen.

Reading 2

The student then types up an outline and answers an open ended question about the selection. The writing is not graded, but the parent is able to view it from the parent log in. The final step of MaxReading is the comprehension questions. Then the student is given their score for the chapter and they have the option to play vocabulary games. MaxBios follows the same layout but it has stories about famous people. My understanding is that MaxPlaces also follows the same layout but that it is about different places around the world.

Reading 3

MaxWords is broken into five programs; CLOVER a section that goes over syllables, spelling rules, prefixes and suffixes, Latin roots, and Greek roots. The CLOVER section was a little too difficult for AJ to understand, but I found it very interesting. It taught all about how a word should be broken up into syllables based on different rules. It would have been nice to have as a resource when I was teaching her about syllables. The spelling rules section teaches a rule and gives examples, then your student simply takes a four question multiple choice quiz. The other sections in MaxWords all keep track of the lessons the student has completed, but when AJ would log on to do spelling, it didn’t take her to where she left off.

The prefixes and suffixes, Latin roots, and Greek roots were all really helpful for AJ. She struggles with vocabulary. Each section would teach her a group of words (or word parts) and then she would do a few activities including fill in the blank and matching activities to help her understand the meanings of the words. These sections made her think and really understand how to break down the words to try and understand the meaning.

By far the section that AJ enjoyed the most was MaxMusic. In MaxMusic you can pick an artist and a song to work with. The options include songs from; The Beatles, Adele, Selena Gomez, the Rolling Stones and more. Once a song is selected there are three options. In Identify, the student selects all of the verbs in the song. In Fillers some words are missing and they have to select the correct missing word.

Reading 4

In Piano the notes of the song are played on the piano and the student has to remember them and play them.

Reading 5

There is also a Game section in MaxMusic, that I didn’t find until a few days ago. In that section the student can play a matching game to match musical notes, or they can play a guitar game where they need to hit the arrow keys on the keyboard at the right time.

Since there are so many different parts of MaxScholar I wanted to make sure that AJ tried them all but that she didn’t feel overwhelmed. Three days a week I had her work on MaxReading. She would complete all of the sections and then pick any other area that she wanted to work on. The other two days a week I had her do a section of MaxWords and then she was free to pick which other area to work on. It usually took her about a half hour a day to work on MaxScholar.

MaxScholar is a fun program to help improve reading skills

I expected that MaxScholar would help improve AJ’s reading and vocabulary, and it did. She tends to skim and not really pay attention to what she reads. By having her slow down and pick out the important parts of the text I noticed that she was not having to reread the selection and that she was easily able to tell me what happened. The great thing is that I also saw this skill transfer into her other reading. The work with roots, prefixes, and suffixes has helped her as well. I have noticed that when she comes to an unfamiliar word that she tries to figure it out instead of instantly asking what it means. Even though the reading level she is working at is well below her actual level, I think that practicing the skills at an easy level has let her grow her confidence.

One thing I didn’t expect was that this program would help with her writing. She normally has a hard time writing a summary of what happened in a reading selection. Often she can tell me just fine, but she has trouble getting the information from her brain to the paper. Writing a paragraph about what she read can sometimes take thirty minutes or more. After about a week of writing the outlines of the text something seemed to click with her. I don’t know if it was the highlighting of different parts of the text that helped her, or if it was how the outline was explained. But either way, by the second week she was quickly writing a complete paragraph in response to the open ended questions. They are not perfect, but she seemed to finally understand how to put her ideas together quickly.

MaxScholar is easy to use, has helped AJ in reading, vocabulary, and writing, and she enjoyed it. She didn’t complain about it ever, and that is a first for an online reading program! The only thing that I didn’t like about the program was that I wasn’t able to pick which level to put her in. I hope that the pretest changes in the future or that there is a way for the parent to put the child in a different level.

AJ will continue to use MaxScholar at least a few times a week to help her continue to improve her skills. If you are looking for a solid program to help your struggling reader, MaxScholar may be exactly what you are looking for.


MaxScholar Reading Intervention Programs Review

Hey Mama! Planner ~ Review

It’s that time of year, the time when the majority of homeschooling families are planning for the next school year. I love planning and deciding what topics we will be studying and figuring out the skills that I think AJ is ready to learn. Normally I would be making lists and would have at least partially planned the first few months of school. Unfortunately, due to me having a few surgeries and trying to switch AJ to more independent work, we are behind and still have about a month of school left. Even though I am not ready to sit down and make a detailed plan, I have been doing some planning. I have tried quite a few different planners on the computer over the past few years, but I never end up sticking with them. I need to be able to grab my planner write in it and be on my way. That’s why I was happy to have the chance to review the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse.

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review
The Hey Mama! Planner arrived at my house on one of those days when nothing was going right. I started flipping through the pages to see what it had to offer and I landed on a page that said:

Hey Mama,

What does the IDEAL Mama look like? Easy – look in the mirror and smile big. There she is!

It made me smile and brightened my day. I instantly knew that I was going to enjoy this planner.

The Hey Mama! Planner is soft covered, spiral bound, and 192 pages long. It has plenty of room to help you plan out your school year and is full of forms to help make your year run as smoothly as possible.

The beginning of the planner has calendars for 2016, 2017, and 2018 each on a single page. It is nice to be able to quickly glance at the entire year and see where birthdays, holidays, and other important dates fall during the year. After those calendars there are monthly calendars from July 2016 through June 2017. Each monthly calendar is spread out over two adjacent pages. For each month there is also a page for notes, and a Hey Mama! Letter. Each letter is inspiring, uplifting, and heartfelt. I look forward to reading those letters throughout the year. I know that they will come in handy when I am dealing with those difficult days.

Following the monthly calendars you will find the weekly planners. The top of each one has a blank line where you can fill in the date for the week. I was so glad that they are not dated! The weekly planner pages each have five columns and seven rows. It is completely blank so you are able to use them in whatever way you feel will work the best for your family.

Sprinkled between the pages you will find some more Hey Mama! Letters and pages with information about different items shown on the front cover. I found those pages very interesting and learned a few new things. I plan on sharing those pages with AJ when we come to them throughout the year.

Next up you will find the Goal sheets. There are pages for yearly goals, semester goals, and monthly goals. On each one there is a place to write down goals for different aspects of life. I never thought about writing down goals in that manner before, but after seeing the pages, I am sold. As I said before, we are still finishing up our school year, but I have already added a few things to the yearly goal page for next year.

There are also attendance charts. On one page there are 180 boxes to check so that you can easily keep track of how many days of school your child has completed. There are five copies of the attendance chart. Since I only need one, I am planning on having AJ use the others to keep track of some of her independent work. Once she completes the work for that day she will check it off, that way she won’t have to remember where she left off if she gets ahead or behind for some reason.

There are a few other forms that I think will come in handy over the next school year. From book logs to curriculum planning sheets, and skill check lists, I can’t think of anything that this Hey Mama! Planner is missing.

All of the pages to help you plan and keep track of things are great. But there is even more! In the back of the planner you will find a lot of fun extras including:

  • Writing Prompts
  • Story Starters
  • The 13 Colonies by date
  • Timeline of Inventions
  • U.S. Presidents and their wives
  • Branches of the Government
  • States and Capitals

I know that these pages will help me throughout the year.

I thought I was getting a planner, but really this is so much more. I am looking forward to planning out AJ’s 8th grade year with the Hey Mama! Planner. It is pretty, full of encouragement, and has every form I could ever think of needing. The pages have plenty of room to write on. If you are looking for a planner to plan out the next school year, I highly recommend the Hey Mama! Print Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 from The Old Schoolhouse.

If you purchase the print planner by July 15th 2016 and use the code CREWCODE you can get $10 off the purchase price.

Coupon Code Hey Mama Planner 2016 2017

125 members of the Crew reviewed the Hey Mama! Planner, see what they had to say.

Hey Mama! Schoolhouse Planner 2016-2017 Review

Sunya – A Math Game Review

AJ really enjoys math. She likes to figure out problems and to learn new concepts. The problem is that she hates to practice what she knows and she really doesn’t like to write out problems. I have found that she really excels when she can practice math concepts in a non traditional way. Her favorite way to practice math is by playing a game. We often use dice and cards to practice math facts and to practice things like adding and subtracting negative numbers. The problem we run into while using playing cards to practice math is that they only go from two to nine. Sometimes we get creative and use cards from other games or make our own, but it isn’t as easy.

We were recently given the chance to review a new game called Sunya – The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying & Dividing from Sunya Publishing. I was excited to try it out, because it is often hard to find math supplements for older kids. This game is ages nine and up and can be played with one to five players.

Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}
The game comes with sixty playing cards. The cards include; the numbers zero through nine, wild cards, a card with the multiplication symbol, a card with the division symbol, and a card with the equal sign on it. Along with the playing cards, there is also a set of thirty math and science fact and riddle cards. We also received a number line and a 25 page guidebook.

The cards are all well made and they seem to be sturdy so I think they will last for a long time. The cards are very easy to read. The playing cards have the number or sign written in a large font on the center of the card. On the bottom of the cards there are the same number of purple dots and on the top left corner there is a gray number. I enjoyed that it was simple to see what number was on each card from different angles.

The math and science fact cards have a variety of jokes, riddles, logic problems, math problems, and science facts. Most of them have the answer written in small orange letters upside down on the bottom of the card.

There are a few different ways to play and a lot of rules. There are so many options and the instruction manual is more like a book, that it is easy to become overwhelmed. But it is honestly a simple game to play!

You first need to decide to play the multiplication or division version. Then a sample number sentence is played up to 9×9=81 and everyone is dealt cards. So if the sample sentence is 3×2=6 then the player to start the game picks a card and tries to change the number sentence to another correct one. For example, if a player had the numbers 189 in their hand they could change the sentence to 9×2=18. It’s easy! The math and science fact cards come in to play after a player goes out. The winner gets to read a card to the other players.

The day that the game came in the mail we had company and I thought it would be great to try out the game. They all thought it sounded like too much thinking and declined to play. I love logic and number games so I was a bit disappointed that no one wanted to play, but it wasn’t the first time that they turned down a chance to try out a new game.

AJ and I have played the game a few times since, but I have found it to be slow as she takes a long time to figure out numbers that will easily work to change the number sentences. Helping each other is encouraged, but she likes to figure things out for herself. She is learning a lot and I can see her trying to work through different sentences trying to see which if any will work. I think it would be a lot of fun to play with fellow math lovers like myself. AJ thought it was an ok game but said it was a little too hard. We made a few changes to the game (like being able to reposition any number and to change between multiplication and division in the same game) and it made the game more enjoyable to AJ.

I think it is a fun way to practice math, but it does cause to student to be actively learning. I think the math and science cards are completely unnecessary for game play. Instead I gave them to AJ to read and play with.

Overall I think it is a solid game but that the game play tends to be slow and even challenging due to so many rules. I think there are too many examples in the rule book and that it is too big overall. Most people want to jump into a game and have fun and sorting through the rules and directions can be time confusing. If you are looking for a fun game to relax and play then this isn’t what you want. But if you want a game to make you think and one that will strengthen your math skills then this would be a great game to buy as soon as it becomes available.


Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}

Poetry Memorization ~ Review

AJ can memorize any song or commercial, but she has a hard time remembering math facts and dates that she needs to remember for her school work. When I heard about a new poetry memorization product from Institute for Excellence in Writing, I was a little torn. AJ made great progress with their writing curriculum, but I didn’t know if I wanted to add extra work to our already busy schedule. After reading through the samples on the website, I decided that having AJ memorize poetry would be beneficial to her.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
We were given Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization. It includes; five CDs that have all of the poems the student is to memorize, a DVD of the seminar “Nurturing Competent Communicators“, and a Teacher’s Manual. Inside of the Teacher’s Manual there is a page that tells you how to download the 170 page student book, and seven audio MP3’s of wonderful workshops. We were given a physical copy of the Student Book, but it is sold separately.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
I don’t know what it is about Andrew Pudewa, but his seminars and workshops are always enjoyable to listen to and watch. It often seems like he is talking about AJ! I haven’t listened to all seven of the seminars, but the ones that I have really changed my thoughts on teaching and language arts in general. I had a few light bulb moments when I was watching the DVD about Nurturing Competent Communicators. If you have a struggling student at all, I recommend listening to any seminar or workshops of his.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
There are five different levels of poetry that your child will memorize over the years with this program. Everyone starts at level one and moves on at their own pace memorizing nineteen provided poems and a personal selection for each of the first four levels. The fifth level has twenty different speeches for your child to memorize.

The poems in level one are fun and silly most of them are between one and five stanzas long with short sentences. AJ’s favorite poem that she has memorized so far is called Celery by Ogden Nash.

Celery, raw

Develops the jaw,

But celery, stewed,

Is more quietly chewed.

As the levels progress there are longer poems and some that are more serious, but there are short and funny poems sprinkled throughout as well. I was very happy with all of the different selections. Some of them are poems that I remember reading when I was younger and others are poems that I remember dissecting in English class. There are also quite a few that I have enjoyed reading for the first time.

The program is very simple to use. I decided to learn the poems along with AJ (I don’t know if I will stick to that when she gets to the speeches though, they look hard!) and it has become a fun activity for us to do together. Each day AJ and I both recited all of the poems that we had memorized. If she could recite the newest poem that we were working on, then she would color the picture at the bottom of the student page and highlight the name of the poem on her progress page. Then we would start working on a new poem. If she had any issues or missed any words then we would simply continue to work on the same poem. After reciting the poems we listened to the CD of the poems being read aloud until we came to the poem we were working on. We would listen to the poem we were currently working on a few times and then read through it in the student manual. Then AJ would put a check mark on the progress chart to show that she practiced them that day.

In the back of the teacher’s manual there are optional lesson enhancements. Some of them are poetry and literary elements to talk to the student about while others are activities like learning about worms when she memorized the poem, Ooey Gooey. We talked about different elements of each poem, but we didn’t decide to complete any other enhancements because our days our fairly busy right now. I like that they are there if I need them.

The entire process takes us less than 10 minutes a day, and it is a time that AJ enjoys. When I first told her we were going to memorize some poetry she wasn’t excited, but now if I forget to have her do it, she reminds me.

One of the reasons that this product interested me was that AJ has a very hard time writing poetry. She is a very literal thinker and writing silly verses was a hard concept for her. I hoped that introducing her to different poems would show her that not all poetry had to rhyme and that they were not all suppose to be read in a sing song tone. Having the poems read correctly with the correct pronunciation was wonderful! I am very glad that we had the opportunity to review the Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization , we plan to continue with it for years to come.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review

ARTistic Pursuits ~ Review

I have wanted to find a good art program for AJ for a long time. She enjoys doodling, but her art skills are greatly lacking. We have tried a few different programs, but they just weren’t a good fit. We were given the chance to review Middle School Book One The Elements of Art and Composition from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. and I thought that it would be a good fit for AJ.

Artistic Pursuits Middle School Book 1

The Elements of Art and Composition is a 92 page come-bound book. There are 16 units that are each broken into four lessons. The lessons focus on different elements of art including; space, line, texture, form, depth, balance, proportion, and perspective. The lessons are written to the student making it so that most students can complete the program on their own with little help.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
The first lesson in each unit introduces and explains the concept of that unit. The lesson has your child practice the concept in a creative way. In one unit your child is told to find an object and see how many different ways they can look at it. Another lesson has the student line up small objects and draw them a few times having some of them overlap. Each of these lessons are fairly short, but they explain the concept very well.

The second lesson is in Art Appreciation. The student is shown a piece of art that goes with the unit. There is a brief history of the culture and the piece of art, and then the student is asked to imitate the art in some way.


The third lesson is the main art lesson, it is on technique. It gives some great tips on how to achieve different looks in your art. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that this section is large enough. It is only one page long in each unit. The information that is given is detailed, it even explains which pencils to use to get different effects.


The final lesson in each unit is the Application lesson. This is the section where the student is told to use everything that they have learned and to do a project. Some of the projects require a lot of time, but there are some (especially in the beginning) that only take a little while to complete.

In each lesson the student draws something.

There are 64 lessons, so if your student completes two lessons a week, the book will last an entire school year. The books are not consumable, if you have multiple children they can all use it.

I decided to have AJ work on art twice a week. The first two lessons I read to AJ and worked with her. After those two lessons I quickly realized that she would be able to do the work on her own. Each lesson took between 45 minutes and an hour. She understood the lessons, but she had a lot of problems with the drawings.

She did the best on the second lesson in each unit where she was asked to imitate part of a work of art. On the rest of the lessons there were not details of what to draw and she had trouble. On a lot of the lessons there are pictures drawn by other students. Since her drawings were no where near as good as the ones in the book she became discouraged.

I think that this level was just too advanced for her. This book is full of wonderful techniques, but if you have trouble drawing basic items, then that won’t really help.

If your student has basic drawing skills and wants to improve them, then this book would help them a lot. With the different techniques and the art history, this would be a solid course that can be completed with little help from the teacher.

I plan to have AJ draw for fun a lot over the summer and then start AJ over in the book for the next school year. I think that if she improves on her basic drawing skills that she will get more from the book.

Find out what others had to say by clicking on the graphic below.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

Music Appreciation ~ Review

When I first started homeschooling AJ I wasn’t afraid to teach her algebra or biology, I was worried how I would teach her music or art. I knew that she would need to learn a variety of subjects, but music was one that I didn’t know how I would go about teaching. I have never played an instrument and I couldn’t name more than two famous composers. AJ on the other hand loves music, all kinds of music, and is eager to learn. When we were given the chance to review a Music Appreciation course I was excited to see if it would be a good fit for AJ. I was amazed at the course that Zeezok Publishing LLC had put together. Their Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades is an excellent program.

Music Appreciation

Over the course of a year your child reads and learns about seven of the great composers; Schubert, Mozart, Paganini, Bach, Hayden, Handel, and Beethoven. While learning about each composer your child will read a book about each one, complete activities related to music, create a lapbook about each composer, listen to music, and do hands on activities. While the study of each composer has similar activities, each one touches on different aspects of music. We started our study with George Fredrick Handel.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
We received seven books, one about each composer, a five disk CD set full of wonderful music, a CD with lapbook pieces to print off, and a large workbook that is over 350 pages long. While this curriculum states it is for the elementary grades, there is a lot of work and learning involved.

When we started our journey to learn all about George Handel (a name I had never heard) we turned to his section in the large workbook. On the first page we found a weekly lesson outline that broke the study into four weeks. It also included a few activities that AJ would need to complete outside of the program in order to meet national music standards. Those activities were simple to complete. Each week we needed to read a chapter out of the book, Handel at the Court of Kings, and answer some comprehension questions. She listened to some music from the composer each week as well. Each week also had her complete a section called Character Traits and Tidbits of Interest.

Handel - One of 7 composers to learn about

The biographies are well written and full of interesting details. In Handel at the Court of kings, we learned about his life in great detail, from him getting in trouble when he was six years old for following the singers in the street, to when he was traveling across Europe, and when he started to go blind. The book is broken into four chapters and contains sheet music for many of the songs that Handel composed. The book is fairly easy to read, but it does contain some difficult vocabulary sprinkled throughout. Including the sheet music, the book is over 160 pages long.

The Character Traits section listed good character traits that Handel displayed during the chapter and explained the traits in better detail. Handel was a good man. Some of the traits AJ learned more about were; diligence, humility, leadership, and humor. Reading through the character traits only took a few moments each week, but AJ enjoyed it. I liked the fact that those qualities were being displayed in real life ways throughout the book.

The Tidbits of Interest section was neat. It would list a page number and then give more information about an event that happened on that page. We tried to stop and read the tidbit of interest when that part of the story came up. It helped to put some parts of the story into perspective. When Handel was young his father didn’t want him to pursue a life of music, but we found out in the Tidbits of Interest section that at that time in Germany musicians were regarded as lower than servants. That helped us to see why his father was so against him being a musician.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}
Each week AJ completed other fun activities to go along with the story. During week one she learned about Germany and practiced locating different countries in Europe. She learned a little about Bach and Scarlatti, the other composers who were born around the same time as Handel. She copied parts of sentences out of the book and sorted out the adjectives and adverbs and did research on the oboe.

Learn about more than music with Zeezok!

The second week had her learning a little more about Germany. She also started learning about some of the elements of music. She learned about; melody, harmony, dynamics, rhythm, tempo, and timbre. All of those terms were new to me, but AJ remembered some of them from the piano lessons she had taken. She ended the second week by learning about the different types of sound that instruments make and assigning colors to different sounds. She was given adjectives like lonely, warm, sweet, and heavy and had to decide which color reminded her of the word. She had a hard time with that activity because she is a very literal thinker. I think that was the only activity that she didn’t like in the entire study.

Learn about the elements of music

The third week was her favorite. It started with her reading and copying quotes about or by George Handel. Her favorite quote was from Handel, “…I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better.” In the book we learned how amazing Handel was, not only in music, but as a leader. AJ’s favorite part of the week was comparing and contrasting different music. She listened to songs that were opposites and described how they were alike and different. She listened to 10 different songs (not including the ones written by Handel) during the third week, and wished there would have been more.

Compare and Contrast music

The final week had her complete a few different activities. She reviewed the different character qualities that Handel displayed, put together a time line of events, learned about some of Handel’s famous songs, and experienced being blind. The last week took us two weeks to complete because there was so much to learn.

We tried to do the reading on the first two days of the week and the other activities through the rest of the week. We both liked that there were so many different activities. The only problem we had was that the chapters in the book are so long. The second chapter begins on page 43, so that shows how long the chapters are. I also felt that we rushed through some of the lapbook activities in order to try and stay on schedule. Even with rushing, it took us almost six weeks to finish our study on Handel. The next composer we plan to learn about is Bach, there looks like a lot of fun things in that unit.

Reading about composer Handel

I think this is a very well written curriculum. The books are interesting to read and full of factual details, and the CDs align perfectly with the book. When we are reading about a song Handel composed the book tells us which CD and track to go to so we can listen to the song. It is very organized and easy to teach, even if the teacher has no previous knowledge of music. There are hands on elements that make learning fun. Each composer focuses on different musical elements so the student really gains a wide variety of skills once the program is finished. The best part is that AJ really looked forward to music each day. There was a large amount of reading and writing, but she enjoyed it so much that she didn’t mind those things.

Since this was written for elementary aged students, I thought that we would be able to breeze right through it. That was not the case. If I was doing this with an elementary student I would most likely change this into a two year program and complete a book in eight weeks instead of four. I think doing all seven books in one year with an older student would be difficult, I couldn’t imagine trying to do it with a third grader. I think it would be too much when all of the other daily work is included. If you are looking for a quick and easy music program this is not what you are looking for. But if you want a program that will immerse your child in the world of music and make learning really come alive then this is exactly what you want.

Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}

Kwik Stix ~ Review

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Lately AJ hasn’t been able to do very many arts and crafts. She loves to paint and create things, but she always seems to make a mess. Between spilled water and paint that accidentally gets on the table, I say, “no” way more than I say, “yes” when she wants to get the paints out. When I heard of the new Kwik Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc.  I was very intrigued. A lot of paints claim to dry fast, but when we try them out, they take forever to dry. I hoped that these would be different.

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
We received a Kwik Stix 12 pk and a surprise gift of a pencil grip. I wish that I would have had that pencil grip when AJ was learning to write! She has a very awkward grip some times, and I know that the pencil grip would have helped. It slides on the pencil and tells you where to place your fingers in order to have a proper grip. AJ has used it a few times, but she finds it a little hard to use because she doesn’t normally hold the pencil correctly. There was also a chart that showed some different grips that were either correct or incorrect. The way AJ holds her pencil was on the incorrect side. I loved that there was something that showed her she was holding the pencil wrong. I am not pushing her to use the pencil grip right now, but when she uses it I do see an improvement in her penmanship.

Kwik Stix Review, A mess free way to paint

The Kwik Stix 12 pk came with a variety of paint colors; red, orange, yellow, two shades of green, two shades of blue, purple, pink, black, brown, and white. Each stick is about three and a half inches long and resembles the shape of a glue stick. They are solid sticks of tempera paint, you simply take the cap off, twist the bottom of the stick if needed, and then use the Kwik Stix to paint something. They are non-toxic and very easy to use.

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
When AJ first saw the Kwik Stix she thought they looked like colored glue sticks. But when she first tried them out, she really liked them. The box claimed that the paint dries in 90 seconds, and they really do. We found that they dry almost instantly. The color goes on smooth and evenly and once it dries, it has a paint like texture. They take painting to a new level. One thing I like about the Kwik Stix is that you don’t need any paint brushes or water to use them. As long as you have the paints and something to paint on, you are all set.

AJ really liked using them, and the only issue we found was that there isn’t a way to mix the colors once they dry. If AJ drew a line of black and then quickly went over it with white the line did turn gray, but it had to be done very quickly. The amazing thing was that even though she mixed colors, the Kwik Stix never had the other paint transfer onto it.

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
 AJ has used the Kwik Stix on regular paper, construction paper, and on a cardboard butterfly. Everything she has used it on has come out great! She is doing more art projects, and I am dealing with less mess. In the video below you will see AJ using the Kwik Stix.

These Kwik Stix would be great to use with young kids. They are virtually mess free. If you are looking for a way to let your kids paint without all the mess, these Kwik Stixs are something you should definitely check out!

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review