Leap Frog Stationary Products, a Mosaics Review

 homeschooling, MosaicReviews, Reviews  Comments Off on Leap Frog Stationary Products, a Mosaics Review
Aug 062013
 

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The Beans hates to work on her math. I am probably safe to say that math is her absolute least favorite subject at this point. At the end of last school year, she would start to cry when it was math time.

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Imagine my utter shock and surprise when she started asking to do her math with the Leap Frog products that are now available from Mega Brands America.

The new Leap Frog products by Mega Brands America are what Beans needed to not be terrified of math apparently. We received the workbooks for the K/1st age range, and these were right at where she was in math at the end of last year. The work book is engaging and has short segments per page, the flash cards are easy to use (and notched on one corner so you know which side you’ve done), they have a great rewards chart system that you can totally customize with the goals you set for your wee learner and what child in the kindergarten age can resist write off dry erase work? I couldn’t pry the math and the handwriting dry erase boards out of the Beans’ hands for days after our package arrived in the mail. In fact, she took them with her everywhere, so proud she was of her “homework.” We lost the first dry erase marker and did have to go out and buy another set. After I replaced the markers, it was several more days before she would put her homework down.

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Mega Brands America produces stationary such as this geared to reinforce what your child is learning and makes it fun. You can find the Leap Frog products in with the stationary and writing utensils at many mass retailers (Wal-Mart, Target, JoAnns, OfficeMax, Michaels and Toys R Us) with a recommended MSRP of .99 to 24.99 for ages three and up, so you will be able to find something in your price range for your little scholar. To see what other’s had to say about this product, go visit Mosaic Reviews!

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May 222013
 

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Let me start off apologizing for the delay in this review. We have had a massive family crisis and blogging had to take a back seat. I’m trying to get caught up.

My girls love computer games. They love their Leapster Explorers and learning through games like that. So I was thrilled that I got to try Ooka Island Adventure. To say my girls really enjoy playing it is an understatement. They beg to have time on it, especially the Beans (she’s 5).

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Ooka Island is a computer game, based online that was designed to assist you in teaching your Pre-K to 2nd grade child reading skills in a very fun and engaging manner. Your child has what amounts to quests to complete in guided play that teaches the letter sounds and how to blend, comprehension of books and reading and then some free play where they get to play with the Ooka Elves that they have rescued by reading books. Let me tell you, Beans especially loved rescuing her elves, playing with Zobot and completing tasks in the game. Each time she completed a new game, she would come running to me excitedly exclaiming about what she had done. I have never seen her so excited to learn new things like this before (and in fact, she didn’t realize she was learning phonics…). Beans is recognizing words she has seen in Ooka Island when she is doing other things and gets excited because she knows what these words say. My eldest enjoyed playing it too (6) but she wasn’t quite as exuberant as her sister.

Bugs did play it, and she did enjoy it. She loved climbing the Alphabet Mountain and then getting to skate down it. She knew it was a school game so that tempered her enthusiasm a wee bit. However, the results I have seen in here were more than I hoped for. For the first time, after about a week of playing the game (she knew all her standard phonics sounds but had gotten hung up on sounding out words. She has a tendency towards perfectionism in her school work and if she can’t do it perfectly the first time, she gets frustrated and angry. This game helped her work on blending and for the first time ever since she has started using this game she has sat down with a book on her own and sounded out the words she didn’t know in it without becoming upset when she hit one she had some issues with! For that, this program is worth it to me).

Ooka Island, on top of being an interactive online game also has books for you to download as part of your experience with it, it tracks your children’s progress through the program and gives you reports on how they are doing, you can have it set up to email you when they read new books. And the girls loved it because I could send them messages to receive whenever they logged on. It thrilled them to see what message they were getting that day.

I love how Ooka Island builds upon your child’s skills as they master them, while still having practice in what they have already learned. It grabbed both of my children’s attention, and they have both grown in their reading skills beyond what I had hoped for in an online reading program. For the most part, I have never been a big fan of online learning for ones so young and prefer to drastically limit my children’s screen time. However, Ooka Island has made me rethink some of that. Online learning at this age, if controlled and counter-acted with plenty of time outside can be beneficial. The learning is fun, engaged the girls better than I had hoped it would and I had results with it. And I will admit, it was nice to be able to let them play on Ooka Island while I was able to get some housework done. I appreciate the fact that Ooka Island is something that I can let them play and not have to worry about values being taught through the stories that are contradictory to what we are instilling in our children.

Until June 1, 2023 you can get 30% off a year-long subscription to Ooka Island by clicking on this sentence. That is a pretty good deal since it takes the annual family subscription from 149.95 (for a family for up to four children) to just over 100.00. For a full year’s access, that isn’t too bad for reading instruction help (and perhaps some time to get other stuff done around the house! Not like I advocate screen time as a babysitter, sometimes it does help). Believe me, if I had the spare money right now, I would be taking advantage of this offer so I could extend our subscription because I do like this so much (however, since I can’t, I shall be grateful for the time we’ve had with Ooka Island and the success we have experienced with it and I’ll pinch my homeschooling budget and keep an eye out for a deal to come around again). Yes, it is rare that I want to keep a subscription to an online program of any sort, so you know this program has to be good!

Apr 112013
 

If you homeschool, you know the frustrations of finding a planner that will work for you. I can’t tell you how many planners, systems, printables I have tried in finding a system that will work for the way my brain is wired. In fact, it got so interesting in our house last year in regards to calendars and planners (of various sorts) that my husband had to put his foot down and forbade me from purchasing any more calendars/planners/printables/binders for new ways of doing things.

Ok, so maybe I have a problem. Is there a twelve step program for people like me?

I did come up with a way to keep track of lesson plans, curriculum and such that worked just fine for the way my poor brain is wired. It has been working well for me and the way we school for two years now.

Logo in black lettering for Apologia

Recently, I got to review Debra Bell‘s planning system (The Ultimate Homeschool Planning System and the Student Planner) which is sold by Apologia (yes, the wonderful people who has brought us the Exploring Creation series, the terrific Who is God series, a great selection of books to inform, motivate and inspire us in our homeschooling journey).

Front cover of Debra Bell's The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and the Ultimate Student Planner

This is a good planner. I appreciate the fact that included in the planner are articles to help you master the planning beast with a yearly planning retreat, how to plan for a month, take a quick plan weekly, how to use it to show your children the plan for the week and then use it for a review of what they did get accomplished at the end of the week. It has sections to set priorities, make a list of resources you need to procure and a large yearly planning grid. There is space for up to six students to plan individually your goals for each for the year too.

For the nitty gritty, there is a section to record grades, reading lists and activities that you are involved in. Plus there are helps and suggestions on how to create an independent learner, motivating those who are a bit more reluctant, an article on learning and thinking skills.

Front cover of Debra Bell's Ultimate Homeschool Planner

The planner isn’t overly feminine and frilly. It has a good neutral tone to it and a non-frilly floral pattern that I love (it actually goes fairly well with my wall calendar!). It is spiral bound with a sturdy spiral, and the covers are a plastic which will repel moisture (not like any of us would ever get liquid [ahem, coffee] on our planners, eh?) and have folders in the front covers.

I love the pages for planning your week, space to enter in your triumphs, prayer focus, your own Bible reading plan, and how you are incorporating ministry to others into your homeschool days.

I do really like the layout of this planning system. It is a good general homeschooling planner that anyone could use (and in the even that Mom isn’t able to teach, it is self-explanatory enough that most people could grab it and take over for a few days). I did have an issue with trying to switch planning styles (I’ve been using a printable and a clip board for the last two years and have become rather accustomed to the way I’ve personalized it). I also plan out our school for six weeks on and one week off and while it is doable in this planner, this planner is designed for a year, almost like a regular teacher’s planner book (only way more detailed than the ones I used as a teacher in Christian school). I know if I had started with The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, I wouldn’t have had the issues I did with changing planning styles/layout totally. I fully intend to use this to it’s fullest potential in the coming school year (which starts fairly soon for us actually since we school year round, six weeks on, one off with extra time off around holidays. It gets too hot in the summer to do much so we may as well school and have a great time when the weather is nicer).

While the planner is terrific as it is, I would add a few more folders inside. And perhaps an elastic loop to attach a pen (I don’t know about you, but it seems my writing utensils wander off on a regular basis) and a zippered envelope to hold paper clips, stamps, rubber bands and chocolate. And while this is a terrific general planner, I would love one aimed more for parents of elementary aged students (while I do intend to homeschool all the way through high school, I don’t need the articles on doing it currently in my planner) with more space to organize learning life skills for that age group, how to survive the years of not-so-independent learning, field trip ideas (and space to record field trips in more detail). Don’t get me wrong, I do really like this planner, but this is how if I was going to do it, would lay it out and what I personally would add.

I also got to review the The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students. It is laid out so very well for those beginning to learn how to schedule their days and assignments. I love how there are sections for the students to record their favorite things, articles and helps to guide logical and analytical thinking, the places to record grades, reading, physical activity plus the added history timelines, geography lists, how to convert measurements, multiplication table and a whole lot of other information that will be great to have at your scholar’s fingertips. I would love to see a place to attach a writing utensil in this planner too, and perhaps folder pockets in the covers like the master adult planner. My eldest would love for it to come in more girly colors. But then, she is a girly girl and loves pink and glitter and glam. One of the coolest features of this planner is that the spiral binding on it glows in the dark. Which at first when it got left on my nightstand kind of freaked me out until I realized what was glowing beside our bed…

Front cover of The Ultimate Student Planner

These planners are beautiful (and there is a choice of two covers for The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, so you have more options!). They are encouraging, make it easy to keep a record for the year of what you have done and will serve as a great tool for looking back and reminiscing when the kids graduate (which thankfully for me is a long way off yet). These are great for any mandatory record keeping you have to do in your state, promoting order and peace and training our children to make wise use of their time and being diligent in their work. I can highly recommend these planners to make your life more streamlined.

You don’t have to take my word for it, to find a medley of other review perspectives, visit Mosaic Reviews!

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Apr 012013
 

As parents we need to train our children to be diligent, have self-control, be kind and a whole host of other virtues. At times, we wonder how in the world we will get these concepts across to our children in a way that they will understand and put into practice.

We Choose Virtues is a great tool to assist you in helping your children live good, moral, upright, virtuous lives. Created by Heater McMillan who saw a need for this sort of training in all children, We Choose Virtues was born. As a part of the Mosaics Review Team, we were sent the Virtue Flash Cards, and also received for download the Parent Handbook, Coloring Pages, Character Assessment Sheet, and Butterfly Award.

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The handbook explains how to use the program and it is simple to get started with. The flashcards are the size of a large index card, are very colorful and hold up pretty well to the use of my children (must work on them fighting over holding the cards…) Each card has a character associated with each of the virtues that are to be taught, a simple catch phrase to help you remember the virtue and if you want, you can also get them either Bible based (NIV or NKJV, we got the NIV) or without. My girls love using the coloring pages and letting their creativity shine in adding their personal touches to them.

This system is easy to implement and you can make it as involved as you wish. For us it is easiest (and best) to focus on one virtue at a time until significant progress has been made in displaying it. So, for diligence, we focus on being diligent in all we do, we verbally praise when they are being diligent, we show what not being diligent looks like in our family (which can turn kind of goofy), we read books with the characters learning to be diligent and read and memorize Bible verses dealing with diligence.

After you learn several of the virtues, you can make up games to go with the flash cards. Name the virtue, and first child who finds the card gets it if they can define what it is to exhibit that virtue, hide the cards around the house and go on a Virtue Hunt. Give someone a card (or token that matches the the theme of the card) when you find a virtue being used and make a day to see how many they can earn. If a certain virtue isn’t being displayed, make the child find the card and read it aloud to you (if they are able, if not, go over it together) and have them explain why their choices weren’t in alignment. The possibilities are endless, to be cliche’.

There are several items you can purchase for use in your homeschool, home supplementing and even for schools to use, so you can find the program and program components that are right for you and your situation.

I am also pleased to be able to give you a discount code for use in case you were considering purchasing We Choose Virtues. Just enter the code VIRTUE15 for a 15% discount on your order.

This review is brought to you by Mosaic Reviews, and we all have different viewpoints, so feel free to see what other’s had to say and not just take my word on it.

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Just a Quick School Update (with a Life Update Thrown In)

 Faith, family, homeschooling  Comments Off on Just a Quick School Update (with a Life Update Thrown In)
Aug 072012
 

We are on week five of our first six week school term this week. The girls are doing so well and have learned so much in the last four weeks, I’ve about had my socks knocked off!

So far this term, using the Primary Arts of Language, Writing by the Institute of Excellence in Writing, we have learned how to pick out who the main characters are in a story, what the main point or the moral of the story is, what the problem is in the story and how it got solved, how to infer and figure out when the story took place if possible along with other clues about the setting. I love how this is such a gentle approach to teach not only writing, but also how to think critically about what is being read. The girls love doing it and beg to have stories read out loud on the days I don’t have this scheduled! We are going to continue using this program for the remainder of the school year. We all are loving it! We get to start spelling with it at the beginning of the next six week term. Bugs is super excited for that, and Beans asked to do it too. We’ll see if she’s ready.

Math is moving along swimmingly. I think we made a great choice with using Horizons K for both of them. Bugs is ripping through the new concepts and seems to master them in minutes. It takes Beans a day or so, but she is totally understanding everything except ordinal numbers at this point. They both can tell time on the o’clocks with little problem, Bugs is getting the ordinal number thing down, they both are enjoying learning the odder shapes. Beans other issue with math right now is her level of maturity. She is grasping these concepts from a book that is designed for six year olds basically (Kindergarten level, she is four and a half) but doesn’t quite have the maturity to sit and do that particular workbook. She can sit and do her handwriting book, but there is just so much more distraction in her math book. I think I am going to move to more dictation for her math and I’ll be the scribe. I think that will help her with her squirellyness and my frustration over not quite getting her math done up to the level I know she is thinking at.

Handwriting is going. It isn’t anywhere close to the girls’ favorite subject, but they do it, most of the time without complaining.

We are still doing a chronological survey of the Bible using Might Acts of God. We are getting closer to finishing it. I really like how it is written and it does present some deeper theological concepts in a child friendly manner. I plan on keeping this book and using it a few more times and letting the girls read it on their own when they are ready to.

Both girls are moving along in their reading. I’ve learned to back off and not push them so hard on this area. Bugs gets flustered and can’t process what she is doing if she gets overwhelmed with being pushed and Beans is just picking stuff up naturally. I am also having Bugs help teach the Beans her letter sounds for extra reinforcement. How’s that for sneaky? Bugs doesn’t realize she is helping herself with teaching the Beans her letter sounds. She loves to help, she loves to be in charge and impart the information she knows, so I figured why not? They both love being read to and if they could would sit and listen to stories all day. In fact, Sunday night at church, they brought their abridged version of Pollyanna and convinced Miss Bonnie to read it to them before church started. Miss Bonnie is a sweet older great-grandma at our church whom the girls just dote on. She was so tickled when the girls asked to sit with her Sunday night and then asked her to read to them.

I still absolutely love The Mystery of History. The girls really enjoy the story aspect of it. We are done with week five of book two today and I think that tomorrow we are going to start week six as I want school done by next Wednesday next week.

Next week is week six and then we have our Sabbath week. I’m wanting to be done with school a few days early as next week heralds a lot of change for our family.

My husband has started looking for a new job. This Friday is his last day where he is currently employed and we don’t have another job lined up yet. We are pursuing several leads and we know this is the right direction for our family to take at this time. We have prayed over it and have sought wise counsel from those we trust and respect and know us well. We weren’t planning on a gap between employment for my husband, but that is the way it ended up happening. We haven’t told the girls yet. We will do that in the next couple of days so they can get used to the idea that Daddy will be around during the day for a while. Grandma is also supposed to be coming out next week and then we have a fun surprise for the girls the next.

Please be praying for us during this time of transition with employment. Please pray that the job we have started to pursue comes through faster than we expect it to and that we have the money to survive. Right now it is unclear if we are going to be eligible for unemployment with how this all has happened and money is going to be beyond tight. Please pray for God’s provision. We know we are doing the right thing and are moving forward in faith. We had decided to apply for this new position before this threat of unemployment started to loom in front of us. Thanks for praying.