Sunday, May 29, 2016

Freebies for Memorial Day Weekend!!!

Here are a few freebies for you all to enjoy this week.


If you are signed up for emails from Wendy’s, check your inbox.  They are giving away a free Frosty on Memorial Day for loyal customers.


On Tuesday of this week (May 31st), stop by your local Baskin Robbins ice cream store and celebrate their anniversary with scoops for $1.31 each!


And again this week, Kids Discover is offering a whole array of free topics to explore, this week only. So take a look and learn something new with your kids!


To all the military service members who have served and lost their lives for our freedom, my sincerest thanks for giving the ultimate sacrifice for us and future generations.

Happy Memorial Day!

And here’s a little tribute to my own father, who devoted most of his life to military service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Civil Service.  Rest in peace, dad!  I can’t thank you enough.  .


Monday, May 23, 2016

REVIEW: Introductory Science by Science Shepherd

We had the delightful honor of reviewing Introductory Science by Science Shepherd.


Introductory Science is a Christian-based elementary science program intended for ages 6-11. 

This is an online curriculum that is presented through daily video lessons combined with a printed workbook offered in level A (ages 6-8) or level B (ages 9-11).  Your subscription lasts for 1 year.

A variety of science topics are covered, including creation, biology, geology, astronomy, oceanography, meteorology, and much more!

You can view a sample video lesson at the product link above, and you can view workbook samples here:

The prices are as follows:

If you do not complete the course within 12 months, you can also purchase an extension for $5/month.



My 8-year old son, Holden, absolutely loves anything to do with science, and for him, it’s never enough!  So when we were given the opportunity to try out the Introductory Science program, he was really happy to add it to his activities.

I was able to select either the level A or level B workbook to go along with the online video course. After looking at the samples of both workbooks, I realized that level B just includes everything from level A with the addition of a few more pencil activities like crosswords, word searches, matching, and additional questions.  So we settled on using level B and figured if it was too much, we could just omit the extra stuff and be no worse off.  As it turns out, it was just right for him, and he was quite capable of doing the extra work.  I would definitely recommend going with level B, because then the additional pages are there if you want to use them.

Because this program is an introduction to science topics, it covers a lot of areas of science.  We touched on just 3 of them in the first five weeks of the program, and those are the ones I’ll be talking about in detail here.  Each day involved a video lesson followed by a workbook page.  Some days had additional workbook pages or hands-on activities, so I’ll take you through some of the things we did.

During the review period, we spent the first two weeks on the Introduction.  This discussed the truth of God’s word, his Creation, and how he allows us to share dominion with him over the Earth that He created.  It went like this:

Day 1:

  • Video Lesson
  • Workbook Page20160425_230147

Day 2:

  • Video Lesson
  • Workbook Page
  • Activity:  We created a model of our favorite animal. Holden chose a lion.

Day 3:

  • Video Lesson
  • Workbook Page
  • Matching Puzzle

Day 4:

  • Video LessonDSCF4622
  • Workbook Page
  • Word Search Puzzle

Day 5:

  • Video Lesson
  • Workbook Page
  • Activity:  Holden drew a picture of all the things God created on Day 3.
  • Week 1 Review page:  Crossword Puzzle

Week 2 followed a similar pattern but also included a Video Activity.  In every video activity, a pair of twins demonstrate a hands-on activity (like an experiment) that is explained in the workbook, and it’s very helpful to watch them do it first.  This one asked Holden to draw and color all the things that God created on the 6 days of Creation and to try to do it without looking back in the book.  Holden’s not big on artsy activities and doesn’t enjoy coloring at all, so I didn’t make him do this part.  We just talked about it instead.  It was enough for me that he drew one of the days of Creation in week 1!  Another one of the activities this week asked Holden to list some of the tasks that he can do by himself…things we have given him dominion over.  So as we came up with that list, I dictated them into his workbook for him.  Another activity asked him to write about the ways he can take care of the things over which he has dominion, so again, I dictated his answers down.  The final workboDSCF4619ok page this week was a crossword puzzle review.

In the third week, we covered Science Skills and Tools.  Here, we learned about the scientific method, data collection, and tools for collecting data.  This week, we got to do several hands-on activities.  The video activity had me put several small objects into a paper bag without Holden looking to see what they were.  Then he had to reach in and use his observation skills to predict what each object might be.  I used a pencil, a ball, a coin, and a piece of Lego.  Holden thought this was fun, and he guessed them all correctly!  DSCF4623

The purpose of the next activity was to practice classification.  We had to color 9 flowers that were printed on a page in the workbook in 3 different colors and cut them out.  But they had different numbers of petals…some 4, some 5, and some 6.  Holden had to sort or “classify” the flowers by the number of petals they had.  Then he had to fill out a data sheet to show his analysis of the data he collected regarding the colors and numbers of petals in his classifications. 

The final videDSCF4624o activity showed Holden how to make a bird feeder out of a pine cone, peanut butter, bird seed, and string.  He had fun rolling it in the bird seed!  He didn’t know you could make your own homemade bird feeder this way.  A “bonus” assignment was to record data on the birds that came to feed on it, but we didn’t get to do that part because it rained for days and days!  We put it away to hang it up once the weather gets sunny.  This has been the rainiest May ever!  Then we wrapped up the week with the crossword puzzle review.

Weeks 4-6 cover meteorology.  We’ve done 2 out of 3 of those weeks at this point.  Week 4 explained what meteorology is, all about our atmosphere, what weather is, what precipitation is, and all about the water cycle.  For the activities, Holden got to draw a picture of his favorite kind of weather, draw a picture of the earth with its atmosphere, the sun, and the moon illustrating their relative position to one another.  The video activity was an experiment with 2 tin cans, one with warm one and one with ice water, to demonstrate evaporation and that water is always in the air.  The weather here has been unseasonably cold and rainy, so we decided to save this experiment for once the weather actually brings us some warmth and sunshine so we can see the results much faster.  Fortunately, the weather forecast shows we’re finally in for clear skies and seasonable temperature later this week!  Then we completed the crossword puzzle review.

In week 5, which we just finished up, we learned about measuring temperature and what affects the temperature, all about seasons and what causes them, and the order in which the seasons occur and why.  The video activity was fun, and Holden really enjoyed it because it was like playing a game trying to answer the question before the answer was revealed in the video.  It showed some pictures on the screen and asked a question about seasons and weather, and Holden had to call out the aDSCF4616nswer very quickly.  He really liked this!  He was surprised by the giant hailstone they showed in the last question!  He’d never seen hail like that, so he learned something new with that one.  We did some matching puzzles throughout the week, and then the final video activity was to select a dry leaf outside and make a crayon rubbing of it, showing the details on the back of the leaf.  Holden thought it was cool the way the veins in the leaf just popped right up on the paper!  Then we finished up with the review crossword puzzle.

Holden has done really well with this course.  It’s fun for him, and the hands-on activities offer a lot of variety and age-appropriate activities for him to do.  It’s been pretty easy for him so far, but he has learned some new things along the way.  I would judge this course to be most appropriate for grades K-3.  I think it would perhaps be too simple for older than that, but there are still a lot more topics to cover in this program that we haven’t gotten to yet…geology, oceanology, plants, astronomy, underwater creatures, flying creatures, land creatures, human beings, being healthy, ecology and natural resources, matter, energy, motion, and magnets.  That’s 35 weeks of material!  I’m sure there will be plenty to challenge him along the way.

You could definitely do this course at your own pace and complete it much faster if you desired.  I really like how the worksheets and activities are all laid out in order in the workbook, so you don’t have to jump around.  The activity pages are all interspersed with the worksheets just where they occur in the program.  I also love that the workbook is spiral bound so it lays flat.  There’s not too much writing involved for younger children, and there’s a good mix of multiple choice where they circle the answer, fill in the blank, and true/false questions.  The word searches and crossword puzzles are age appropriate, and Holden loved the matching activities.  Holden still has some writing difficulties, but it was easy for me to read the questions aloud and let him answer orally while I dictated his answers.  Holden also has significant attention deficit issues, and I really loved that the video lessons were concise and interesting.  The set makes it look like the teacher is a news reporter with screens all around him that display pictures and videos to watch as he teaches the material.  The daily lessons could all be completed in just a few minutes. This also made it easy to do a week of material in one day if you prefer block scheduling.  Even doing it that way was not too much.  We tried it both ways, depending upon our schedule that week, aDSCF4625nd it worked well either way.

We also received the answer key for the workbook.  So if you didn’t watch the lessons with your child and you had any question in your mind about the right answer, you could easily look it up in the answer key.  But if you had a limited budget, you could definitely get by without it for this simple elementary course.

We have been so very pleased with this program!  It’s all just right for Holden, who is finishing up 2nd grade right now.  I feel confident that we will continue with this course and complete it within the allotted year.  We’ve enjoyed the activities so much, and it was just plain fun!  The video lessons were such a great alternative to a textbook-based curriculum and so much more interesting!  This program really suits Holden’s learning style.  He doesn’t even have to sit still while he watches!  I’ve been projecting the videos to our television from our school computer so he could watch them on the living room’s wall-mounted tv!  He loves that!  The videos are nicely cataloged on the website, too…each week is grouped together so it’s easy to navigate from one video to the next.  The only thing that would make it even easier is if the website remembered where you left off and picked up on the next visit right at the next video!  Smile  But I can live without that.  It just means that I have to find the right video and start it up for Holden when we’re ready for the next lesson. It’s a small price to pay!

I would definitely recommend that you give this program a try, particularly if your child has trouble sitting still for textbook-style courses and likes hands-on activities.  And all the activities we did used household items, so we didn’t need to purchase any special supplies, which also makes this program a winner over a lot of other ones we’ve tried!

See what other Crew members have to say about this and other science courses from Science Shepherd by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

FREE Online Spelling & Vocabulary Resource!!!

I’m always on the hunt for new FREE resources for my readers, and today, I stumbled upon another wonderful spelling & vocabulary program that is completely FREE!  It has word lists for up to 8th grade, and it looked like there were some Image result for bigiqkidshigh school resources on there, as well. In addition to spelling and vocabulary lists, it also had periodic tables and all the presidents in order!

It includes word lists, quizzes, tests, flashcards, and tons of games of all kinds!  After you take a test, you can even email the results to your parent. 

It looks as though the site has some additional premium services available for a fee, but there seemed to be plenty to go around for FREE!

Check it out!  It’s called BigIQkids.  Another feature it has that I was really excited about is that you can have it generate handwriting worksheets from the spelling lists.  You can customize a number of things like the font size, handwriting style (including print or cursive), use of arrows, etc.  And most exciting for me is that you can have it print them left or right justified.  I have a left-handed student, and something he complains about a lot with handwriting sheets is that he can’t see what he’s supposed to be copying because his hand covers it up!  This eliminates that problem.  I may just have to start using this!

My family uses Vocabulary Spelling City to play games and test on our own lists of spelling and vocabulary words, but I do pay for the premium service so that I can also organize my lists and have it store my students’ grades.  But that site also has lots of games and word lists available for you to use for FREE.

Happy spelling!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

FREE Kids Discover Content This Week Only!!!

For this week only, you can access dozens of interesting topics on the Kids Discover teaching website, so have fun exploring ancient Egypt, all about dogs, ancient China, DNA, or environmental topics. They have all these and many more! 

Just click on the free content, and as you scroll down, more and more topics will load. 

My 11-year old daughter and my 8-year old son had a lot of fun looking through these today!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

REVIEW: Sculpture Technique Model by ARTistic Pursuits Inc.

Haylee was excited to get to review Sculpture Technique Model by ARTistic Pursuits Inc.



Sculpture Technique Model is part of the newest series of art instruction books from ARTistic Pursuits Inc.  There are two in the sculpture series, and the other one is called Sculpture Technique Construct. 

The Model book covers creating mass with putty, creating scale with clay, and creating surface with fiber.  It is intended to teach students the processes involved in working with specific materials while also teaching elements of sculpture in an understandable format.  This book contains a total of 12 project assignments.

These books are recommended for upper elementary through high school level students.  They can be purchased for just $47.95 each.



Haylee has used all of the early elementary books from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. in the past, and she has always enjoyed them.  When I first mentioned the sculpture books to her, she wasn’t sure what to think, but since she’s always had fun with these books in the past, she was happy to get to try out the Model book.

Our goal was to complete one of the three units in this book during the review period. We chose the first unit, which covers creating mass with putty.  The unit begins by explaining what mass is and how it relates to sculpture. Then it explains the three methods for sculpting:  additive, subtractive, and modeled.

The first lesson goes on to show a photograph of a known sculpture as it discusses the concept of sculpture, what it is, how it can be appreciated, and some information about the pictured sculpture and its creators.  Then it gives a detailed explanation of the properties of putty, what tools and equipment are needed, safety when using it, and basic instructions for its use.  Then comes the first project assignment:  modeled mass.

The pictured examples for this assignments are fish inspired by jewelry and headdress pieces from Africa.  This first assignment suggested that Haylee create a simple form that could lay on a flat surface.  Haylee chose a pizza! 

She had never worked with Durham’s Rock Hard Water Putty before, and I found it at my local home improvement store.  It was really inexpensive, and I bought the smallest can they had, knowing I wouldn’t have any use for any leftover materials. She ended up needing another can for the other two projects in this unit, so if you choose to use this book, I would recommend buying the larger can before starting this unit.  It comes as a dry powder that you mix with water in order to create a putty.DSCF4613

The book gave step-by-step instructions along with multiple illustrations to show Haylee how to use the putty to create her sculpture.  She had a lot of fun making her pizza!  The book is self-paced, but any spot where you must stop and wait for a sculpture to dry before proceeding is indicated with a hand symbol after that step.  Her pizza had to air-dry for about two days.  Then she got to paint it with acrylic paints.  I have to admit that it looked pretty cool by the time the paint dried!  She made the toppings part of the sculpture, so it was three dimensional.  I laughed when I saw it, because the only toppings on it were pepperoni and green pepper, which is her standard pizza order!  It was true to life. Smile

The next assignment focused on static mass.  It instructed Haylee to create some type of single animal form that has some appendages, and to choose a subject matter that was of personal interest to her.  It explained that this type of sculpture begins by forming the basic shape of your form with a mass of twisted newspaper secured with masking tape.  Then you cover it with putty and allow it to harden.  The pictured example in the lesson showed the natural, basic sculpture without any paint or embellishment so Haylee could see the form without distraction.  It also talked about how many sculptors choose to leave their creations in their DSCF4614natural form for that reason. 

For this assignment, Haylee chose to create a bumblebee.  The instructions told her to consider how her sculpture would stand, and if necessary, to create a stand to go with it.  But she was able to slightly flatten the bottom of her bumblebee so that it would stand up on its own.  Painting her sculpture was optional, but she loves to paint, so of course, she wanted to add those sharp, contrasting colors of yellow and black to add detail to her design.  The appendages on this creation are the antennae.  So cute!

The final lesson in this unit discussed dynamic mass.  It explained that dynamic mass communicates a sense of movement through the use of wings, legs, or other appendages.  The examples shown in photographs included a dog, an airplane, a tiger, and a horse.  The lesson assignment suggested the dog but again reiterated that Haylee should choose a subject matter that was important to her. Dogs are a big part of her life (we have two whom she adores), and she sleeps with one of them every night.  So of course, she chose to sculpt a dog! 

Once again, she was instructed to start with a basic shape made from newspaper secured with masking tape and then to cover it with putty.  It said she had about 30 minutes to create her sculpture before the putty would begin toDSCF4615 harden.

This time, the book gave very specific instructions for painting her sculpture using a layer of gesso, a a pencil for drawing special features like eyes, and then how to layer the paints to show all of her details.  Haylee had so much fun creating her dog!

At the end of the unit, there was an evaluation included where Haylee could reflect on what she had learned and created in this unit.  It summarized the concepts she’d learned and asked her to explain her understanding and how she applied them to her work.  We went over these questions orally together so I could see what she had gleaned from the activities.

It also referred her to read an article in the back of the book called “The Road to Creativity” by Daniel D. Ellis. This talked about the steps that occur when artists take their ideas and transform them into completed works.  We read that aloud together and went over the included discussion questions.

Next, it talked about understanding craftsmanship where it asked her to think about problems she may have encountered while working with the putty and what changes she had to make in her process in order to get better results.

This was the first time that Haylee had ever worked with putty, so this was a whole new experience for her.  As she tackled each project, I could see her growing more and more comfortable and confident with the steps in the sculpture modeling process and in how to use the materials in such a way as to get to her desired result.  I think she learned a lot from the unit, and I thought her sculptures were really cute!  I can imagine that she’ll want to do more of them in the future, as this has opened some new doors into creativity for her.

This book was different from the early elementary books we’ve used from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. in the past. Those follow a basic format of learning a little about art history, studying a great work of an artist, and then applying a particular style or technique to drawing, painting, or printmaking.  Whereas this book focused on sculpture technique, with each unit narrowing the focus to a particular medium used to creDSCF4616ate and model a sculpture.

Haylee seemed to really enjoy this study, and she was able to work on it without any help from me.  I love that each assignment included such detailed, step-by-step instructions with plenty of illustrations to show her how it’s done.  She was able to follow along herself and emerge with a completed project without my assistance.

In the front of the book, it gives a table of contents along with a detailed list of the art supplies needed for each separate unit to make shopping and planning easy.  I did find that the supplies required for units 2 and 3 were tools that were very specific to sculpting. Since we haven’t sculpted in the past, we would have to purchase a lot of basic tools that are new to us.  It’s outside of our budget at this time, so we probably won’t be completing the other units right now, but it will be nice to have the book to explore later if Haylee expresses continued interest in sculpting as she approaches high school.

As always, ARTistic Pursuits Inc. made this medium and technique easy for Haylee to understand, and we’ll continue to expand her artistic horizons with these wonderful art instruction books in the years to come!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about this and other art instruction books from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. by clicking the banner below.

Monday, May 9, 2016

REVIEW: Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades by Zeezok Publishing LLC

I think I was the one in my house who was most excited about getting to review Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades by Zeezok Publishing LLC.



Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades provides a complete and thorough study of seven of the greatest classical music composers of all time.  This includes Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, and Schubert.

From the Great Musicians Series of composer biographies to the fun and engaging workbook to the CD of lapbook printables for each composer to the entertaining CD collection of their works, this program offers a multi-sensory experience for elementary students, but quite honestly fun for middle school students (and their parents), as well.

A suggested schedule is laid out for you in the student’s workbook, which allots 4 weeks of study for each of the 7 composers for a total of 28 weeks of material.  All this is available for just $169.99



We’ve had so much fun with this composer study that I’m not even sure where to begin!  We began our study with Johann Sebastian Bach, but you can study the composers in any order that you choose.  First of all, I want to say that I felt the study was so thorough, very interesting, and so very engaging and fun! 

We had a whole biography book from the Great Musicians Series to read all about the life of Bach from childhood to his death.  We learned that he was the youngest of an enormous family and that his parents died when he was still very young.  He was raised by one of his older brothers who had a tendency to restrict and control his musical experiences, but it was clear from early childhood that young Sebastian was a prodigy of musical talent!  I don’t want to give away too much about what we learned of his life, but it was truly remarkable!  There was so much we didn’t know.  His life was filled with tragedy in many forms, but he was unflinching in his pursuit of music, and in his pursuit of providing music for God’s glory. 

I love how the program examines the character traits of each composer, showing examples in their lives of those traits being demonstrated and how they impacted the lives of the composers themselves as well as the people around them. 

We also really enjoyed the way that Zeezok designed the elements of the program to be used together.  For instance, they interwove the listening of the music with the reading of the biographies so that as you read about the circumstances under which the composer created each piece of music, you got to stop right then and listen to that piece on the CD before continuing the story.  It broke up the lengthy reading and kept it interesting for the kids.  They really enjoyed the music in this way. 

The workbook is designed to be used by a single student.  This worked out DSCF4602fine for us because my 2nd grade son, Holden, struggles with writing and wouldn’t have been interested in using the workbook himself.  Instead, my 6th grade daughter was the one writing in the book, and Holden watched her do the activities and participated orally where he could.  We discussed all the questions orally, and although my daughter did most of the writing, I sometimes dictated for them just to change things up.

There was a Tidbits of Interest section in the workbook that we read after each chapter of the biography.  It gave additional information, interesting facts, and background information that made the biography even more meaningful. 

We all really enjoyed the hands-on activities that were outlined in the workbook.  For our study of Bach, we did an experiment on oxidation using some pennies in vinegar and in water in which we compared the effects on the copper of the penny.  My youngest was especially excited to wait a couple of days and see what happened, but my daughter was really surprised how much green appeared on the vinegar penny over the weekend!

In addition, tDSCF4603here was a fun recipe included for German Rye Bread (since Bach spent his life in Germany).  I decided to cut the recipe in half to adapt it for use in my bread machine so that all we had to do was add the ingredients in the necessary order for my machine and turn it on.  Sure enough.  After about 3 hours, we had perfectly baked bread that was surprisingly delicious!  We had no idea that it contained unsweetened cocoa powder until we made it.  That was surprising!  But my family really enjoyed the bread (we left out the caraway seeds because we don’t like them), and we ate every slice of it!  We even bought some fresh corned beef and swiss from the local deli to use up the last of the bread as Reuben sandwiches, which were delicious!

There was also some copy work for each of the kids…one page of handwriting lines was provided for grades K-3 and one page of regular lines was provided grades 4-6.  Here, they copied some Latin phrases used by Bach when working at St. Blasius Church in Muhlhausen.

There was a variety of printable lapbook elements that we had fun putting together throughout the study.  By the end of our study of Bach, we were able to put them all together to create a completed lapbook of what we learned.  This made a lovely keepsake!  We used a different style base than the traditional lapbook…one I created myself and have used in the past…that makes it easy to store the complete lapbooks in a binder for easy reference in the future.


To wrap up our study, there was a little Quiz on Bach at the end of the unit to check for comprehension and retention of his biography, style of music, and the vocabulary terms we learned along the way.

Next, we moved on to our study of Handel.  We learned more about music styles, wind instruments, and musical elements.  Interestingly enough, we learned that both Bach and Handel experienced blindness at some point in their musical careers!  It’s amazing how these remarkable composers could continue to create and play incredible music that would stand the test of time even after they could no longer see to write down their compositions or see what their fingers were playing.  Incredible!

I also really liked how easily I could adapt the suggested schedule to meet our needs.  We do school only four days per week, so the material in this program would easily last us an entire school year rather than the suggested 28 weeks.  I just made quick pencil notes on the schedule pages of how we wanted to chart our course for 4 days/week, and then we just checked off each assignment as we went along. 

All of the activities are laid out so nicely, and there’s not too much DSCF4605of one thing before moving on to a completely different type of activity.  And there’s such a great variety of assignments to appeal to all types of learners.  My daughter is crafty, so she enjoyed the lapbook activities.  My son is a science geek who loves to cook, so he enjoyed the oxidation experiment and the bread baking a great deal.  My daughter also loves workbooks, so the cutting and pasting, matching activities, and comprehension questions suited her learning style perfectly. 

The bottom line with this program is that it has something for everyone in your family.  And although it’s targeted at elementary grades, I honestly think it’s just as appropriate for middle school or anyone else in your household who is interested in studying the great composers.  Even the music selections on the CD’s for any one composer reflect a variety of styles and tempos to appeal to different children and different moods.  I also liked the self-reflection activities in the workbook that allowed my kids to think about how the music and the different tempos made them feel and affected their moods. 

I can’t say enough wonderful things about this program.  It covers so much material, but manages to do so in a mature way that is every bit as enjoyable for the children as it is for the adult who is teaching it.  It includes so much more than I ever imagined when I read the description.  I would really strongly encourage you to have your family experience this program if you have any interest in true music appreciation at all.  You won’t be sorry!  It’s an investment in a true understanding of the music and how it came to affect all the musicians and compositions that would come after it. 

I’m so thankful that my family has had the opportunity to experience this wonderful and enjoyable learning opportunity, and I know without a doubt that we will continue with this program to the end.  I was also excited to learn that Zeezok plans to release Book 2 in 2017 aimed at the middle school grades.  I can’t wait!

Check out what other Crew members had to say about Music Appreciation by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is always a bittersweet thing these days.  You see, this is the third Mother’s Day I’ve spent without my mom since she passed away of lung cancer. 

Truth be told, I try really hard not to think about this holiday atDSCF0835 all.  Because if I do, it just feels terribly wrong to not be out shopping for a heartfelt card and a special gift to let her know that I’m thinking of her and that I appreciate her very much.

It’s one thing to be a mom, but another thing entirely to have one.  Just saying that…that I don’t have a mom or dad in this world any more…makes me wince inside.  How can that be?  I have such wonderful memories of my parents that it seems like yesterday, and yet it’s been years…and years.  My dad’s been gone 15 years now…my mom for two.

I’m sad today. There’s no other way to put it.  I have an empty place inside that nothing else will ever fill.  If you can still hear me, mom…I LOVE YOU more than words can say.  I miss you.  I’d hug you if I could.  I miss your presence.  I miss your laugh.  I miss talking to you on the phone and sharing my life with you.  I hurt inside for the lack of you.  I’ll never stop needing you, even though you’re not here.  Thanks for all that you were and are to me.  Rest in peace, mom. Love you forever.  And Happy Mother’s Day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

REVIEW: Kwik Stix 12 pk by The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Haylee always gets excited when she gets to review a new art material, so she ran to the mailbox when we received the Kwik Stix 12 pk from The Pencil Grip, Inc.



Kwik Stix are a really cool way to let your kids show their creativity with tempera paints without the mess and cleanup required with traditional paints. 

Kwik Stix contain a solid form of tempera paint so your kids can draw and color with them in the same way you would with a crayon, but with the rich, vibrant colors and appearance of a painted picture.

This medium goes on smoothly without the need for brushes or water, and it dries instantly. 

You can purchase the 12 pack directly from The Pencil Grip, Inc. for just $11.99. Or if you prefer to order from Amazon, you can also get them there for the same price. Other assortments of colors and sizes are also available.

In addition, the vendor included a free sample of The Pencil Grip in my shipment.  We’ve used other pencil grips in the past when my left-handed student was learning to write, but I must admit that this one is especially comfortable to hold!  It has a squishy texture, and I think even an adult interested in improving their pencil grip would be interested in trying out one of these! 



Haylee absolutely loves anything to do with art in any form.  You name it, she’ll try her hand at it!  When she heard about Kwik Stix, she begged for me to try to get on this review.  She practically stalked the mailbox, hoping they would arrive before our vacation, but they were waiting for us when we got back.

She has really enjoyed using them.  The colors are so bright and vibrant, so it makes her drawings automatically fun and colorful.  She said using them was similar to some silky crayons we’ve tried in the past, only these have a firmer texture that doesn’t make a mess and doesn’t get smooshed on the paper if you apply pressure, so she preferred this over anything similar we’ve had before.  And because they are firmer, they also don’t wear down as quickly as the silky crayons did. 

I love that they store neatly in the box, the lids snap on securely, no brushes or water are required, and you don’t need any special paper to use them.  In addition, they should stand up to a fair amount of use.  She used these on some cheap off-white drawing paper and also on some thick, white watercolor paper and had equally satisfying results on both.  The brighter white the paper, though, the more vibrant the colors seemed to be.

We have a large collection of traditional tempera paints, and honestly, I rue the day I ever brought them into the house!  She makes such a mess with them.  From oozing paint bottles to messy brushes and leaky water cups, that paint has ended up everywhere but on the paper, it seems.  I’ll definitely be making those traditional paints disappear now that Kwik Stix are in the house!  Smile

Here’s a gallery of some of her creations using these fantastic Kwik Stix!


If you have budding little artists in your house, you’ll definitely want to give these a try!  I feel comfortable letting my kids play with these when I’m not in the room, and that’s always a good thing!

See what other Crew members have to say about Kwik Stix by clicking the banner below.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

TESTING: We’re Done for Another Year

I’m so happy that we have this year’s standardized testing behind us!  On Friday, I received our CAT test results from Family Learning Organization, and I’m happy to say that Haylee and Holden both passed! Haylee scored overall at the 85th percentile and a grade equivalent of 10.7, and Holden scored overall at the 94th percentile and a grade equivalent of 5.5.  Not bad!

Haylee’s weakest area was math computation by far.  This is not a surprise to me.  She’s going to be using an online math program called Unlock Pre-Algebra this next school year, and I’m hoping the guided instruction and instant grading and feedback will really help cement things better for her. 

In direct contrast with that, math concepts was her strongest area, tied with language mechanics.  This tells me that she is probably making careless errors when working math problems on paper.  As for the language arts, I really think using the Evan-Moor Daily Language Review has been great practice for her this year, and she enjoys that format a lot.

Holden’s weakest area was language expression.  I’m not sure what to think about this.  He exhibited good understanding of parts of speech this year.  But it’s possible that he didn’t read the questions thoroughly or didn’t look at all the answer choices before making his selections. He has major attention deficit issues, and just getting him to stay focused on the test was a problem all of itself this year.

His strongest areas were tied at 99th percentile in word analysis, math concepts, and science.  But he actually got a perfect score on science.  That doesn’t surprise me, either.  He did two complete science programs this year and loved every minute of both of them!  He also did several science review products this year.  You can never give the boy enough science…he loves it!

On Saturday, I mailed off our test results as proof of progress for 2015-2016 along with our Notice of Intent for Home Instruction and descriptions of curriculum for 2016-2017 to our public school division.  Now we’re all set for another year!  I have to admit that it’s always a relief to have this hurdle behind us.

Now we just have 5 school weeks20 individual school days…remaining in our school year.  I’m hoping that seeing the end in sight will inspire the kids to just get it done and wrap things up so we can start fresh with all the new curriculum changes we’re making for our new school year that begins on June 20th!