Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tot School: Big Sister

It was a milestone week for my little toddler. This was the week she transitioned from being the baby of the family to becoming a big sister! She is handling it so well too. Of course she still needs her special cuddle time, but she has surprised me by being such a willing helper and being a proud big sister.

So needless to say, this week has been pretty unstructured. I might regret this, but I did pull out the dry erase crayons and let her draw all over the fridge. I figure she already draws on the walls, why not the fridge too ;)

Then she played with the Discovery Toys stacking blocks after eating an orange popsicle. (I wonder if I'll be able to get that shirt clean!)

And she spent some time with her new little sister.

One thing I had planned on getting before Lil Pumpkin arrived was the New Baby Activity Kit by Time for Tots. I thought that was a cute idea to help welcome a new baby. Actually, I hope to get several of their kits so that I don't have to do any prep work, since my time is a little limited at the moment. :) So if you haven't seen their store, it's worth checking out!

For More Tot School Ideas check out:
Tot School


Friday, October 29, 2010

YUCK! by Buckets of Fun

We recently had lots of fun playing with gooey, slimy, Yuck from Buckets-O-Fun. "Buckets-O-Fun is a one stop shopping with unique products for the creation of fun filled social and recreational events."

What is Yuck?
Yuck products are various types of slime. They are made from an acrylic polymer and each Yuck type is different:

Chunky Yuck: It looks like rock salt when dry and hydrates to the size of machine ice cubes.
Saucy Yuck: It starts out as a powder and when hydrated has the consistency of applesauce.
Snowy Yuck: When dry it has the consistency of sugar. When hydrated it looks like slushy snow.
Sticky Yuck: When hydrates it has the consistency of snot.

How Can it Be Used? 

Yuck products are perfect for games! There is a whole game idea sheet available on using these products. These would be perfect for large group events, youth groups, co-ops, and parties! Think Yuck wrestling, Yuck balloon toss, Yuck relays and more!

We did a science experiment with one of our Yuck samples. Buckets-O-Fun has come up with some science experiments to go along with the Yuck products. We went ahead and did the Sticky Yuck experiment.

We measured, observed and created our Sticky Yuck. Then we measured how far we could get it to stretch before breaking. The kids loved getting their hands in this stuff!

Once we were done with the experiment, we decided to let the little girls have some fun. We threw in some plastic jewels and had them fish them out with spoons and forks.

You can see by her face that she was having fun! Now when using Yuck products with little ones, you do need to be careful that they don't eat any! That's the only thing that made me a little nervous using it with the younger kids. Since the polymer absorbs water, if ingested that would not be a good thing. The product is biodegradable, so once you are done you can dump it in a dumpster or garden area. Don't put down the sink though! (note: you might want to use disposable containers and silverware---it will make the clean-up much easier!)

You can see how to make Yuck by viewing this video:

My kids enjoyed playing and experimenting with Yuck. Yes, it is a little messy, but that's the whole fun point! :)

Buckets-O-Fun is more than just Yuck! :) There are many other fun large group/small group game props such as water balloon launchers and finger rockets. Check it out!
Buckets-O-Fun Website
Yuck Products (1# bag is about $16.00 - $20.00)
Yuck Accessories

To see what others are saying about Yuck visit:

Disclosure: I was given this product for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key: Online Safety

PhotobucketMaking sure my kids are safe online is very important to me. It's not always an easy task though since information and blocking programs are constantly changing. I was given PG Key, an online safety device to try out at home. PG Key is a flash drive that you plug into your computer. It allows parents to:

1) Control when and how long the computer is used.
2) Properly setup your system with filters and web site blocking.
3) Create the “over their shoulder” environment that encourages kids to act the same way “on line” as they do in every other part of their life.

PG Key records the websites your child has been on. You can then play back and see exactly what sites your child was on. Another feature is that parents can be emailed whenever certain blocked keywords are typed or if the PG Key was removed.

Simply put - PG Key does NOT replace parenting with technology - It ENABLES parenting with technology. ~PG Key

What I Thought:

When I first opened the package I really like the idea of just having to plug in PG Key and be set. It wasn't as easy as stated to get up and running, but it wasn't terrible either. I had to make sure some of my computer settings were correct before I got PG Key to work. One frustration is that it only worked on my Internet Explorer browser. I usually use Mozilla Firefox, so I had to make sure the other browsers weren't accessible to my kids or else they could circumvent the PG Key blocking.

Once PG Key was up and running, I really liked the video playback feature. It records the exact sites your children were on but instead of just getting a list of sites, you can see what they were typing and what the site looked like without having to go to the actual site. I also liked that as a parent, I could set certain blocked keywords. Then if my child typed those banned keywords, PG Key would send me an email letting me know.

In terms of actually blocking bad websites, I thought it could do better. While testing, I could pull up several sites I'd rather my kids not see. The flip-side is that it doesn't ban everything--which in a way can be a good thing. I've used programs before where it seems like it banned almost every site and I'd get so frustrated with it that I would disable it. PG Key does let kids know that what they are on is being seen. So in a way, it helps your children learn how to be responsible while on the internet. PG Key does have a safe-search feature, which is better than other search engines, but not fool-proof.  I'm not sure any program is fool-proof. That's why it is still important to monitor and let you kids know that you are checking up on them on the internet. I like the idea of PG Key, but I still feel it needs a little tweaking. I do plan to continue to use it on my kid's computer because they now know that I can see everything they are on and it is another online safety safeguard I have in place.

PG Key website
PG Key Price: $49.99 - no annual fee

For More PG Key Reviews See;

Disclosure: I was given this product for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wordless Wed: Our Lil Pumpkin

digital supplies:

Joining in on Wordless Wednesday at:
Go Graham Go

5 Minutes for Mom

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What's in the Bible--Winner

And the giveaway winner is:

Jayne said...
I love Larry & Bob from veggie tales. I can't pick just one, they are equally great in my mind. Thanks for sharing the review. I didn't even know Phil had was creating new dvd's.
*Please email me :)


Friday, October 22, 2010

Little Reader by BrillKids


I had never considered trying to teach my babies how to read, but recently I had the opportunity to try a program geared toward that goal. Brill Kids Little Reader program is one system for teaching young children how to read.

"The Little Reader software curriculum will guide your child in a systematic and progressive fashion over a 12-month period from sight-reading single words, to sounding out groups of words, to reading complete stories. During that time, your child will see over 3,000 words in more than 140 subject categories"

These are the components of the Little Reader software curriculum:

The Flash Lesson:
Flash lessons in Little Reader are either Word Flash or Picture Flash – that is, they involve either words or pictures. The pronunciation of the word is played at the moment the word or picture is flashed.

The Multisensory Lesson:
During a multisensory lesson, your child will see a word followed by a picture illustrating the word’s meaning. At this point you and your child should also take time to do the action that is shown and say the word.

The Phonics Lesson:
This component is introduced in the second half of the curriculum. It does not teach children letter names but rather Pattern Phonics™ which introduces your child to the relationships between letters and sounds in a gradual, progressive manner.

The Stories:
Little Reader lessons guide your child from reading single words to couplets, phrases, sentences, and finally culiminating in stories, where your child will see familiar words in the context of complete stories.

This program is created to use two times a day during the weekday. Each lesson takes anywhere from 3 -10 minutes depending on how many of the modules you want to go through. If used for a year and then reinforced, the creators state that your child should be reading by age 3.

What I thought:
I used this program with my 2yr. old and my 3yr. old. Both my daughters enjoyed watching, saying and acting the words. I did have a hard time implementing the program two times a day though, and we were doing good if we hit it several times a week. I don't feel like I've had the program long enough to say whether or not it has helped my girls with learning how to read. The program did fill a  void in our day when I needed to keep the little ones occupied with a non-messy learning activity. I thought that it did help with some vocabulary development with my 2yr. old, and I liked the access to free downloads. There are printable stimulation cards and flash cards, powerpoint presentations, e-book stories and alphabet tracing pages. For me, I still believe that it is so important to not depend on only a program to develop good readers. There still needs to be lots of snuggle time on the couch reading real books together with our children.

Little Reader Basic costs $199 for a year-long curriculum or $149.00 for half year. The program is only compatible with Windows.
Little Reader Deluxe costs $360 for a year-long curriculum. It comes with the program and tangible products such as the flash cards, story books and more.

For More Little Reader Reviews See;

Disclosure: I was given this product for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Expedition Earth for Co-ops: Implementation

Yesterday I blogged about how we've organized the Expedition Earth curriculum for our local co-op. Today I thought I'd share how we implement the curriculum.

Class Time: 45 minutes (we could really use 1 hour, or more if adding in crafts)

We have our kids divided into two groups: older (3rd-5th grade) and younger (K-2nd). For the first 10 minutes of class we all meet together.

Large Group time: (10 minutes)
First we lay out our large shower curtain map onto the floor. This serves two purposes:
1.) It creates a space where the kids know where to sit (they all sit around the 3 edges of the curtain)
2.) It provides a hands-on way to find the country we are learning about.

travel bag

Each week the teacher has a suitcase/travel bag filled with artifacts and pictures from the country we are studying. We pull out the artifacts and have the children try to guess what country we are traveling to for that day. The kids love this!

 geography time

Sometimes it is hard to scrounge up materials, but when in a pinch, I have Googled images and laminated them to pass around. After the country is guessed, we have students find the country on the large floor map and then we quickly go over what the flag looks like, and the animals found in that country (print out from Expedition Earth: Animals). Next we listen to the Wee-Sing Around the World song for that country and then break into smaller age-appropriate groups.

Younger group:

floor map

We use the large shower curtain floor map a lot! Each week we go over the continents and sing the continents song from Geography Songs by Kathy Troxel. Each child walks the continents while we sing the song. We do the same for the oceans of the world. We'll do this until we feel like they are pretty proficient, then we'll move to other large map geography games.

geography notebook

Next the younger kids go to a table to work on their Expedition Earth notebooks. First they get their stamps in their passports and then start working on their country fact sheet. In this age group, most of our kids are very young and struggle with writing. They could not fill out the country fact sheet in the original Expedition Earth currciulum because it had too much writing. I created a simple fact page for them that we use for each country. I also typed out the answers to the following questions for each country:
1. This country is found on the continent of:
2. The capital is:
3. The main language spoken is:

We go over those answers, find the capital on the map and then glue the answers in the appropriate space on the fact sheet. Next we show the animals poster again and the kids draw one of their favorite animals from that country. Finally, they can draw about an interesting place, artifact etc. or paste a picture from a magazine from that country.

geography download

On the back-side of the fact sheet there is a flag printable for that country (downloaded from the Expedition Earth curriculum).

geography flag

Once done, this is placed in their Expedition Earth folder. If there is extra time we work on the geography puzzles, do the Continent Hop game, or play with the inflatable globe.

Older group:

country fact sheet

The older kids use the country fact sheet found in the Expedition Earth curriculum. On the back of the fact sheet, the map sheet is copied and they also do mapwork (they use a combination of the maps from the Expedition Earth curriculum and Homeschool Creations). The teacher brings in several books for them to find the answers to the fact sheet. Then they do the mapwork together and talk about ways to pray for that country. Each child places their finished page into their Expedition Earth folder and brings home a prayer card for that country.

So that's how we've used the Expedition Earth curriculum for our co-op. If we had more time, we 'd love to add in some crafts and foods, but we are able to add those elements at home during the week. I love that we can use this curriculum at home and in co-op!

Expedition Earth Curriculum

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Expedition Earth for Co-ops: Organization

Expedition Earth

Erica from Confessions of a Homeschooler has developed a wonderful geography curriculum called Expedition Earth . Though it is geared for home-use, I've been using it with our local co-op group for K-5th grade (our older kids are doing middle school science at this time). I thought I'd share how we've modified some of the curriculum to use in a small/large group setting.


Expedition Earth Curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler
Expedition Earth Animals free download (posters for each country)
Continent Hop free download
Oceans of the World free download
3-prong file folders for each child
glue sticks

Optional but helpful:
large world map shower curtain
inflatable globe
travel bag or suitcase

Countries to be Studied:

Our co-op has scheduled 16 teaching weeks for the year and then an end of the year celebration. This is our curriculum plan:

2 weeks intro. to maps and geography (what's a map? how to read a map, latitude/longitude etc.)
2 weeks on each continent (2 countries from each continent except for the Poles, which is 1 week)
1 week of review/doing crafts for party
End of the year geography party

The countries we are studying this year are:

New Zealand
The Poles


Expedition Earth

I have file folders for each country that we are going to study. Within each file folder there are 3 folders for the country we are studying:

Large Group Artifacts: photos, postcards, currency, travel brochures, animal posters and any other flat artifacts are filed here.
Younger Geography: simple country worksheet and flag printable, passport stickers.
Older Geography: country fact sheet, map sheet, and prayer cards.

I went ahead and printed out all the fact sheets/map sheets, passport flags, animal posters etc. for each country that we will be studying and filed them for the year. I also scrounged up some helpful resources such as map placemats, world puzzles, resource books, Atlases etc. and placed them in the container. We store all the Expedition Earth folders for each child plus crayons, glue sticks, and pencils in one large Rubbermaid bin. This makes it extremely easy for the teachers to be able to grab and go teach for that day.

Tomorrow's Post: Expedition Earth for Co-ops: Implementation

Related Posts:
Expedition Earth Review

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Monday, October 18, 2010

What's in the Bible? Battle for the Promise Land Giveaway

My family has grown to love Phil Vischer over the years via Veggie Tales and Jelly Telly. I was thrilled when the "What's in the Bible?" series came out because I knew it would be another wonderful Christian resource for my kids. 

I was sent What's in the Bible? Battle for the Promised Land. I gathered all 5 kiddos up and popped the DVD into the DVD player. The DVD is divided into two 25min. segments that cover the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.

What We Thought:

Me (mom): I thought that this was so well-done! This isn't a mindless video that you hope your kids learn something good from it. This video is intentional on teaching children what these books of the Bible are about. It doesn't shy away from some tough questions like, "Why would God allow the Israelites go to war in order to get to the Promise Land? This specific video does a wonderful job of presenting the fact that God has a plan of redemption-- a rescue plan! Phil Vischer and his crew use witty dialogue, songs and puppets to present this information in a fun and memorable way. I even learned a thing or two from watching this video. I will be adding more of these into our collection and using them in our Bible study time.

DD(12yrs.):  I thought it was really good. I thought the characters were really funny. I liked how the creators planned the DVD. I learned about the cycle of apostasy and how it gets worse every time it cycles around.

DS(10yrs):  I thought it was funny and I really liked the Bentley Brothers. They sang about all the judges.

DD(8yrs):  I liked this DVD. I learned that we shouldn't worship other idols. I learned that God had a plan from the very beginning.

DD's (2 yr & 3yr.): Even though the humor and subject matter was a little over their heads, they enjoyed watching the puppets and trying to sing along with the songs. They have asked repeatedly to watch this DVD and are starting to memorize some of the songs.

Check out a sample of the video:

Tyndale House has given me permission to give away a gift certificate for one reader to get their own free copy of What's In the Bible? Battle for the Promised Land. If you'd love to have this awesome resource in your DVD collection, just follow the giveaway rules posted below.

Giveaway Rules: CLOSED
The winner will receive a certificate for a free copy of the What's in the Bible? Battle for the Promised Land.  It will be the winner's responsibility to redeem the prize certificate from Tyndale House. This giveaway ends October 25th at 9:00 EST.

1. Mandatory: Leave a comment sharing your favorite Phil Vischer character (from either Veggie Tales, What's in the Bible, 3-2-1 Penguins).  If you don't have a favorite character, let me know what other What's In the Bible? DVD you'd be interested in having.

Disclosure: I was given this product for review purposes only. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Enjoying Fall

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