ABC Bunny: 3rd edtion

This past week the two oldest were away at day camp each day.  I took the opportunity to give the youngest some quality time and start him with Before Five in a Row (b4fiar).  This will be our 3rd time through the book and it is such a heart break for sentimental momma to know this is likely her last time teaching with this sweet age.

We focused on The ABC Bunny for our first row.  I didn't use the b4fiar manual since I've been through it for so many years now.  And since this is my 3rd child I am way way more relaxed and I aimed to JUST read the book to him for 5 days.  We overachieved in the sweetest ways.

At first Sammy wanted nothing to do with the book, but I gently encouraged him to sit and listen and he was hooked at C for Crash!

The next day he eagerly came running when I asked him to read.  This day I happened to see somewhere online a simple little experiment with shaving cream.  I don't remember the exact link - but it's all over pinterest now anyways.  I figured it was a perfect little activity as the book shows a storm in the background.  Plus Daddy wears a beard and doesn't need his shaving cream.  (plus my little precocious preschooler has been watching storm documentaries.  He's awesome.  I know.  lol)


 
 
We started with a little glass bowl but I soon decided to switch to a tall vase so he could see the "rain" better.
 
Afterward we switched to some simple color mixing, Paw Patrol style.  (because he refused to call colors by their true names, and instead will call them by their "paw patrol" name.)
 
Marshall and Rubble transformed into Zuma.  This was a favorite activity all week.  He'd sit for what seemed half the day and just play with the mixing and pouring.
 

 
On the last day we role-played with a little bunny and the help of some play lettuce and tiny pom poms.

 
Sam spontaneously started writing letter on the board (and self-portraits) so we matched magnetic letters to his masterpiece.
 

 
For a grand finale the real ABC Bunny paid a visit to us and "played" with Sammy's excavator.  (or at least that's what I told him).

Enlivenze LLC {a TOS review}

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
 
We like games and we like puzzles in our family.  We actually don't own any video game systems nor do we subscribe to cable.  So when I say we love games, I mean the non battery/non electricity operated, old fashioned game or puzzle.

The newest (to us) puzzle we've been working with is this really unique self-contained (think no lost pieces!) 3D puzzle from Enlivenze LLC.  There are 5 FlipStir Puzzles offered by the company.  So far there are two Level 1 FlipStir Puzzles offered:  Rainbow Pencils and, the one which we have received, Tyrannosaurus Rex.
 
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
Also available are the Level 2 FlipStir Puzzles:  Solar System, Statue of Liberty and a limited edition Periodic Table of Elements.
 
I chose the Tyrannosaurus Rex FlipStir for my 9 year old self-described paleontologist.
 
So how does this work?
 
Each FlipStir Puzzle has 10 pieces, all contained in a sturdy canister with a wand that stirs, grabs, pulls or pushes the pieces into place (powered by the user, of course).
 
First you shake it all up, then give it a stir with the wand.  Finally, begin to solve the puzzle using the wand.  Being the puzzle is all contained this gives the user a bit of an extra challenge.
 
When we received our FlipStir it was already shaken up, so my 9 year old got strait to work trying to piece his dino back together.  (check out that genuine smile!  my fave type of smile)
 
 
He loved it, and loved the challenge.  But I failed on explaining the concept, provided by the company, "Use the wand, gravity, and your ingenuity to solve the puzzle" so he didn't get it solved until I tried it out myself and solved it, showing him how you can tilt the canister to his advantage and grab or push the puzzle piece with the wand. 
 
 
After I told him he can use gravity he had no problem solving it. 
 
Once complete the FlipStir makes a nice little piece of art to display until the next time you shake it all up, give it a whirl and play again.
 
Final Thoughts
 
I do think this is a very unique and amazing product.   It's something I can see myself packing for car trips or any type of waiting - like a sibling's swim lesson or dentist appointment (where big brother has to wait and is doomed to potential boredom).  This would nicely occupy his time and has no pieces we can drop, or leave behind.  Just grab it and go.
 
It's fun for all ages.  I've found myself playing with the FlipStir several times and once I even caught my husband attempting to solve it.
 
My 9 year olds thoughts, "At first it's a little bit hard but then get's easier.  It's fun that you get to use gravity to solve it."
 
 
To see additional reviews of the FlipStir Puzzles, click the banner below:
 
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
 
 

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids {a TOS review}

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
 
We only speak one language in our home, but I would love for my kids to grow up with the foundations of other languages.  Currently we sponsor two children in Peru and I thought it would be perfect for the kids to begin to learn Spanish to break this language barrier we have.   We have been using the Starter Set 1 from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids (FL4K) to help us achieve this goal. 
 
With FL4K Starter Set 1, also known as Beginner Spanish Set , your children will learn the basics of the Spanish language by being fully immersed into the language with cute video based lessons set in conversation style.  In this manner the students will learn the language in the same way they learn their own native language - by hearing it spoken in real conversations. 

This isn't a program where we learn to read and write Spanish (although you'd certainly be able to do some of that after the program), but rather, this program is like the foundation of language learning.  Just like we learn our native language first by hearing and speaking it, so we learn Spanish with FL4K.
 
Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
The Starter Set comes with:
  • one DVD (Spanish Volume 1) with 3 levels of learning -
  • Guide for Teachers and Parents - levels 1 through 3
  • workbooks for Levels 1 through 3
  • Go Squish Cardgame (instructions)
  • flash cards for the 3 levels (used for games and drill/practice)
  • Sticker Set for levels 1 through 3
The DVD




The videos from FL4K are set up as if you are on a flight and you are giving an in-flight movie, where all the conversations are in Spanish.  You start in Washington D.C. and then "fly" to Lima, Peru for your first flight (Level 1, or Flight 101).  Once you master this section you begin Flight 102 and fly off to Bogota, Columbia where you are given another in-flight movie - The Little Magic House Part 1.  Your last flight takes you to San Jose, Costa Rica with an in-flight movie, The Little Magic House Part 2.

Each of the videos follow 3 brothers, and their activities throughout the day.  Level 1 finds the brothers at breakfast time.  You will learn Spanish words for things we'd say in our everyday life, such as breakfast, hello, thank you, you're welcome, sleep and so on.

Level 2 finds the brothers at 10 a.m. with one brother playing basketball while another brother tries to introduce his friend, Gracie.  In this level we learn pronouns such as he and she, and we learn common words like brother, sister, house, and friend.

Level 3 continues on with Gracie's visit where the brothers and Gracie are thirsty and hungry.  In this episode you'll learn how to say you're thirsty or hungry and ask for some common foods or drinks.


The Teacher Guides


The Teacher Guides provide you with lesson plans and activities that not only guide you on which parts of the DVD to watch or what page to complete in the workbooks, but also extended learning ideas in Geography, culture or games.

Here you will also find great advice on how to best to teach Spanish with this program.

Sticker Set

Stickers are provided in the Starter Set 1 to use throughout your journey to incorporate your Spanish vocabulary into your own everyday life.  Each level has it's own stickers to follow along with the new words learned.

This was probably my kids' favorite part of the program.  I have 3 kids ages 3, 6 and 9 that would all watch the videos together.  As they learned the vocabulary we'd add a sticker to the appropriate area in our home.  They loved this - and even my 3 year old was using the "me gusta/no me gusta" phrase appropriately .  So fun!

The Workbooks


The workbooks provide additional learning with crosswords puzzles, short grammar lessons, geography lessons, cultural facts and more.  We completed any sections that were to be read aloud such as the geography portions.  Others that asked for writing we didn't complete as 2 of my students are too young and the eldest really resists most writing - but we did complete those lessons verbally together.

Go Squish Cardgame and Flashcards


The flashcards are a way to practice the vocabulary with fun games such in a way that's more than just the old fashioned manner of showing a card and they robotically answer.  No, the ideas given in the Guides get your kids up and moving and laughing while they learn.

The cards show scenes from the videos and have a written word to match.  2 word banks are provided for each level (which was super useful for us until we got better at the Spanish words).

Go Squish Cardgame is best described as a Spanish version of Go Fish.  This little booklet describes how to play the game at a beginning level when you're not yet to familiar with the phrases and then grows with your family as you learn more - soon you'll be playing the whole game while saying the common phrasing of Go Fish in Spanish, with Go Squish said instead.

Final Thoughts

We thoroughly have enjoyed learning Spanish with this fun program.  I was most pleased that my 3 year old has been learning right along with us. 

The only thing I'd like different is phonetic help along side the vocabulary.  This would be super helpful as a teacher that has a hard time distinguishing sounds sometimes.  If I had a "sounds like" I could better help them say their words correctly, sooner. 

To see additional reviews of Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids click the banner below:

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
 
 

Road Trip with Kids: Audio Books Part 3

 
Long summer days means lots of travel time with the kids.  Even if we are going just 30 mins across town, the kids ask to hear a book.
 
Here are our most recent favorites and most requested.  Also, you can check back on our 1st and 2nd list of audio books.
 
 

 
Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare, was well loved by both my 9 year old and my husband.  The story takes place in 1769 in the Maine's wilderness, with a 12 year old being left to care for his family's homestead while the father goes to bring the rest of the family to the new home.  Matt keeps himself busy preparing the home for winter and befriends a local Beaver tribe.
 
 
Velveteen Rabbit was a favorite story of mine when I was a kid, and it seemed like such a long story at the time.  As we were driving one day I remembered this old classic and decided to download it via Overdrive.  It actually isn't a long story but it is the perfect length for running errands around town.
 
Velveteen Rabbit was the one most requested by my 3 year old.
 
 
 
Young Fredle is a sweet story of a little mouse having to make a new home outside of the cozy warm he once found behind the kitchen cabinets.

I chose this story after my 9 year old declared he didn't care much for The Unfortunate Events books as they are never happy.  It made him uncomfortable.
 
What are your favorites stories to listen to as a family?

Talking Shapes {a review}

Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
 
Not too long ago we completed a review for Talking Fingers Inc.  Talking Fingers Inc. is a company that produces unique software for a hands-on approach to learning literacy, where your hands do the "talking". 
 
There are 4 supplemental curricula created by Talking Fingers Inc.  Talking Shapes:  A Supplemental Curriculum For Early Literacy is the one we'll share with you today.  Other software they offer is, one of our faves, Read, Write & Type, as well as Wordy Qwerty and Jingle Spells.
 
Talking Shapes is supplemental program that helps children ages 4-5 (or preschool to Kindergaten) learn to make that important connection that letters not only make sound but form words.  This is done with 7 stories, with each story adding 6 new phonemes.
 
Children listen to the stories, about two fictional girls who invented the alphabet as a means to remember their stories to each other.  Following the story the student learns to draw the new letters learned and then play games to connect those letters into 3 letter words.  Later those 3 letter words your child has learned can be read in short sentences.
 
We have used this online program with our 3 year old.  He hasn't had any formal learning yet, and while he might be a little young just yet I wanted to still try as I just loved our time with Talking Fingers Inc. before with our 6 year old. 
 
One thing I'd like to note is that what we have access to is an online hosted version of Talking Shapes - intended to be used at a computer and supported currently only by the browser Firefox.  However, there is an app of Talking Shapes for iPads!  (This requires iOS 6.0 or later.)
 
Our 3 year old used this program by sitting on my lap with his little hand on the mouse with my hand guiding him.  He'd only work for a couple minutes a sitting before loosing interest.  (not because the program is boring or can't capture his attention, but because he's young at that's how young minds work).  When he did use Talking Shapes with me, he would giggle and smile.
 
A Peek Inside the Program
 
Upon loading the online app, you come to a screen that shows an overview of all 7 books.
 
 
After logging in with your email and password (one email log-in per student), the program will jump to wherever your child left off at the last session.  For us, being that my little guy is a on the younger side of the targeted ages, he couldn't advance past book 1 unless I did things for him, so we just clicked the (ancient) home icon found in the upper right, which takes you to a menu screen.  We have a choice 1 of 3 activities.  We can re-listen to the story, play again with the letters, or attempt the spelling game again.  I do like this feature as we can just keep reviewing until he is ready to move on.  And, in this same way (of clicking the home button) you could review competed books over and over again.
 
 
Step 1:  Listen
 
The first step to this program is listening to an animated story of Patrissa (Pat) and Natalia (Nat).  The story is read aloud by a clear, easy to hear/understand, and friendly voice.
 
 

Step 2:  Draw
 
The next step is to "draw" the letters that the girls come up with.  First they come up with a clever way to remember the shape.
 
Then your student is asked to "draw" the shape.  This part I was quite pleased with as the "drawing" isn't precise and I'd describe more as painting the letter.  No accuracy is expected, so for my little guy with his first time using a mouse I was apprehensive when we came to this screen - and was quite pleased he could "scribble" his way into filling out his letters.
 
As for the iPad app, I'd expect the same, that the child would fun his/her finger over the letter and fill it out in a "painting" type manner, not a like other apps that expect things to be precise and in order.
 
After learning 3 letters (the first ones learned are C, A and T) your child then forms his first 3 letter word.  This was a favorite for my little guy.  He loves to build and made cute little machine type noises as he built his words. 
 
After 3 letters are formed to make a word, more letters are introduced for a told of 6 for book 1.  (C, A, T, F, S, and H)
 
Here's a simple video to show how cute this part is:
 
video
 
Step 3:  Building Words
 
After drawing the letters your child is asked to "drag and drop" the correct letters to form 3 letter words from the 6 letters learned. 
 
My guy will only do one or two before wanting to go off and play again, but what really shocked me (in a very happy mom type of way) was he can correctly spell what is asked!  Being he has not learned his alphabet yet, outside this program, I'm quite pleased.  If he selects and drops in the wrong letter there is no rude buzz or wrong notification that is discouraging.  The wrongly selected letter just jumps back to the top.
 

He did complete another word, "cat", but that is as far as we have gotten so far as he is going at his pace - which is 1 to 2 minutes, sitting with me, when I ask him to work with me on this.  So it's taken us a month to go through the story, the drawing of the letters, the forming of the words, and now this selecting the letters to create the word to match the picture. 
 
This is definitely not a fast paced, easily exhausted app.  We haven't even completed book 1.  So, I feel this is an app you'd definitely get your money's worth out of, and one that is not time wasted.
 
This is not an activity he asks for, but rather one that I have to be intentional about with him - which is fine!  I don't allow my young kids time to play on our computer or iPads unless it is educational anyways.  When I do get him to sit with me, he does like the program and smiles. 
 
To see additional reviews of Talking Shapes, click the banner below:
 
Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}
 
 

CTCMath {a TOS Review}

CTCMath Review
 
Our eldest has been using and loving CTCMath for over a year now.  He will actually ask to use it if I get distracted and forget to sit him down with his math videos.  Connor asking to do math is a huge deal because math is the subject he struggles with the most.
 
We did use and review this curriculum last year and have noticed some great changes the CTCMath Homeschool Membership.
 
What has remained the same is easy to see right away.  The lessons are the same familiar friendly voice (and cool accent!) with a short animated video explaining each concept.  The homepage remains the same as well as the parent/student separate logins.
 
You still have access to all grades and all lessons, so if your student needs to review a concept he can!  Or, if your child is excelling and can bump up a grade, that's an option too.  I've also considered adding myself as a student and reviewing the higher levels to refresh my math skills - and that is an option as well since under the Family Plan you can add up to 10 students.
 
Within the Parent area there has been a lot of great changes.  (Not to say it wasn't good before - it was!  But now it is even better!)
 
 
There are now 3 screens under the Parent Login.
  • Home
  • Tasks
  • Tools
Under the Home button you will see an overview of your student(s) activity, tasks assigned (if any), and under "Parents" bar, you can opt out email reports or change your login information.  With the Student section of the home page, you can add more students, and view individual profiles.
 
Tasks is a big difference when comparing to a year ago.  Here you can assign your students specific lessons for specific dates, or you can assign them diagnostic tests.
 
In the Tools section you can export data and look over every lesson offered at CTCMath.
 
The Student section (found under the Home tab of the Parent login) has changed considerably.  You can now, see at a glance, the login information of your student(s), a detailed report, summary report, results of any diagnostic tests, tasks assigned, awards, results of speed skills, and history.  This section is also where you can now reset any lesson or test you'd like.
 
 
 
I love that I can see not only this year (where we worked at 3rd grade and 4th with our eldest), but we can also see his past work too by clicking the drop down menu and viewing a different grade.
 
Guys!  That's just the Parent section!  How about we talk about the Student area a bit!?
 
I had two students learning their elementary math again this year.  My daughter (just turned 6) dabbled a bit into 1st grade while my son has been reviewing 3rd grade and testing the waters a bit with 4th grade.
 
 
 
They each have their own student login to use when it is their turn to learn. 
 
One change my kids love is that they can see what level certificate they are working at, with any group of lessons.  (These can be printed from the parent section.)
 
There are now options for the students to take a test at any time, with each group of lessons.  We opted to not, but I do appreciate that that is an option.
 
There are 4 groupings within the grades K-6
  • Numbers, Patterns and Algebra  (3rd grade has 58 lessons here alone!)
  • Measurement
  • Space and Geometry
  • Statistics and Probability
 
How CTCMath works is, you select a grade, select a topic, and then a lesson.  Wherever your child has been working is remembered for the next login, so he/she doesn't need to select grade and topic each time.  However, if needed, you are able to click the back arrow and select either a different topic or a different grade.
 
 
 
Once a topic and lesson are selected, a video lesson begins.  Here I noted that you can now download a PDF summary of each lesson.

You can pause or backtrack at any time during the video lesson.  Once complete your student is wished good luck on the questions - which are found under the tab above the video lesson.  The questions are interactive.  There's an option to have the question read aloud, and as the answer is submitted a green check mark appears for correct answers, or a red X appears with the correct answer if a wrong answer is given.  Progress is updated as your child answers, so that he/she knows how many more to expect - we loved this feature!
 
My 9 year old's thoughts:
"Well.  I like how they make instructions.  It is pretty cool.  It's a lot of fun in the math lesson."
And here, once again, my heart swells as my reluctant math student has used the word "fun" and "math" in the same sentence!
 
Too read more reviews of CTCMath and the many different grades the crew has been working with, click the banner below:
 
CTCMath Review
 

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