Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pumpkin Patch Blessings Book Review


I received Pumpkin Patch Blessings free to facilitate this review. Affiliate links may be in this posting. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Fall is almost upon us. The official First Day of Autumn this year is September 22nd. With it brings trips to pumpkin patches; harvests of nuts, squash, apples, and other delectable crops, colorful leaves, and fashionable layering. Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year!

A peek inside Pumpkin Patch Blessings.

Pumpkin Patch Blessings is an adorable Zondervan Zonderkidz children's die-cut board book written by Kim Washburn and illustrated by Jacqueline East just in time for fall! This sweet book invites the fall season into the home and tells a story in rhyme about two young children and their adventures at the pumpkin patch to find the perfect pumpkin. As this book is read to them children will remember how much they have to be grateful for. Perfect for ages 2-5.

I love this delightful board book! Its illustrations are so precious and the rhyming text has a joyful message of gratitude and blessings. My girls adore this book as well and Teela loves to read it to her younger sister Zari while both love looking at the cute animals and children on every page. This is a wonderful book to share with little ones with Fall just around the corner!

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You can also purchase the Zonderkidz Pumpkin Patch Blessings at Zondervan for $8.99.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received this product for free to facilitate this review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review. Affiliate links may be in this posting. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking With an Adult Review


I received this book free to facilitate this review. Affiliate links may be in this posting. Thanks for supporting my blog.

The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking With an Adult written by Mike Berenstain has 40 delicious recipes that cater to different American holidays around the year. Join Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear as they share 40 of their favorite Bear family holiday recipes. These include traditional favorites like Hot Apple Cinnamon Cider, Cozy Hot Chocolate, and Pumpkin Pie to fun and unique recipes like: Candy Corn Punch, Creepy Crawly Pasta Salad, and Gobbler Apple Muffins.

This hardcover cookbook is laid out well. At the beginning there is a contents page with a list of the recipes in each section and their page numbers. It has 6 sections for different holidays: Valentine's Day, Easter, Forth of July, Fall Festivities, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Each section has 6-8 recipes. Each section starts out with a scripture, a short story, and a poem. Each recipe has a title, what is needed, and directions along with a photograph of the finished food or beverage. At the end there is a page of Kitchen Measurements in both standard and metric.

A peek inside The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook.

I remember The Berenstain Bears' book series from my childhood. I love them and have ever since I was very young. These books teach children how God want them to live everyday. The Berenstain Bears' book series teach children good character traits and values. I love the simplicity of the illustrations and country town feel that the Bear family has.

I adore The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook! My kids love to help me cook and bake and this is a great cookbook just for that bonding experience. I can't wait 'til we can make the: Christmas Holiday Pinwheels, Valentine's Day Pizza, Krispie Easter Eggs, or Forth of July Freedom Trifle! There are so many other fun recipes as well. It has wonderful kid-friendly recipes that are perfect to make with your children or grandchildren for the holidays.

BUY IT


You can also purchase The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking With an Adult at Zondervan for $12.99.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received this product for free to facilitate this review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review. Affiliate links may be in this posting. Thanks for supporting my blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rock 'N Learn Sale on Educents!

Sale Alert! For just 24-hours, all Rock 'N Learn DVDs and board books are 50% off with FREE SHIPPING on Educents with code BLOWOUT. Rock 'N Learn's award-winning DVDs for children in grades PreK through 8th grade teach and entertain with music, humor, and super fun characters. Tip: if you're new to Educents use code WELCOME16 for and additional 15% off PLUS Free Shipping.  

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Save even more by getting a bundle! Here are my favorites, with each DVD now less than $10.

Multiplication & More Math Collection:

 
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This DVD bundle includes: Multiplication Rap DVD, Division Rap DVD, and Fractions & Decimals DVD. Kids discover what multiplication math is all about, learn facts through 12, and practice skip counting. Plus, kids learn division math concepts and facts and begin working with fractions and decimals. These fun math songs and zany characters hold attention and get results!
     

Early Math Collection:

This DVD bundle includes:Money & Making Change DVD, Telling Time DVD, and Addition & Subtraction Rap DVD. This math DVD set is a fun way to boost math skills for the early grades. Math facts are easy to learn with fun music and exciting animation. Kids learn all about counting coins and bills and practice making change. They'll also learn to tell time to the hour, half hour, and minute using traditional analog clocks.
   

Science Collection:

 
This DVD bundle includes: Physical Science DVD, Earth Science DVD, Life Science DVD, and the Human Body DVD. Award winning actor Vic Mignogna gives a voice to Marko the Pencil, who whisks learners away to his Super Science Station for an unforgettable adventure in learning. Special bonus sections present material as it might be found on a science test. And with Marko's test-taking tips, students are sure to improve on standardized tests.
   

Sight Words Collection:

 
This DVD bundle includes: Sight Words Level 1 DVD, Sight Words Level 2 DVD, and Sight Words Level 3 DVD. Sight words are the most frequently used words in the English language, and these DVDs helps students read them automatically. This set covers all pre-primer Dolch words, all primer Dolch words, all 1st Grade Dolch words, and many words from Fry's list.

jollyliteracy.com and just2ducks LLC Can Do Cubes Review


My family had the privilege of trying the Can Do Cubes from jollyliteracy.com and just2ducks for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum. This is a Schoolhouse Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.

jollyliteracy.com provides products that help to teach literacy and reading. They have a product called Can Do Cubes as well as Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar. I just reviewed Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar on my blog here. The Can Do Cubes are wonderful to use by themselves or with a synthetic phonics and grammar program like Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar.

Can Do Cubes Stage 1 & 2.

Can Do Cubes is a multi-sensory way of teaching synthetic phonics, a simple to complex approach to teach and learn alphabetic code. They are small wooden cubes that you can hold in the palm of your hand. These are six sided and most have a phoneme laser engraved onto each side. These are very hands-on and tactile-kinesthetic. These can be used for teaching: spelling, letter recognition, letter sound awareness (phonemes), blending, digraphs, building words, and later building sentences. Each letter, blend, or digraph has a very faint line under them so the child knows how to position the letters even if they are not yet reading. Each block in Stage 1, which represents simple alphabetic code, has a small number in the lower right hand corner to signify where to put them back into the cardboard tray when they are done being used. Each block in Stage 2, which represents complex alphabetic code, is put back easily where they go in the cardboard tray by looking at each individual block and matching the code on the tray.

Can Do Cubes Starter Set

We Received The Can Do Cubes Starter Set Which Includes:
  • 1 Tray of 27 Cubes in Stage 1 which represent the transparent (simple, basic) alphabetic code
  • 1 Tray of 30 Cubes plus 2 cubes connected with a string to represent split digraph sounds in Stage 2 Cubes which represent the opaque (complex, extended, advanced) alphabetic code
  • Handbook for Stage 1 and Stage 2
  • DVD: Teaching, learning and 'sounding out' with Debbie Hepplewhite
  • DVD: of PDF files for Teacher's Guide and Template Book
  • Phonics Chart
  • 2 At-a-Glance Word Charts

The cubes themselves come with all sorts of extras in the starter set we received. There is a spiral bound Handbook for Stage 1 and one for Stage 2. These help you teach synthetic (systematic) phonics at home with Can Do Cubes. One DVD goes through an introduction of Can Do Cubes, a demonstration for teaching with Can Do Cubes, Hepplewhite 'sounding out' the simple alphabetic code, an introduction to synthetic phonics, synthetic phonics for Can Do Cubes Stage 1 and Stage 2. It is all introduced in a British accent. The other DVD has PDFs of Teacher's Guides and Template Books. These have fun workbook pages for Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness & the Alphabetic Principle; Blending, Segmenting, Dictation, Handwriting & High Frequency Words. The Phonics Chart teaches a simple and complex alphabetic codes overview. There are also two At-a-Glance Word Charts showing a cumulative word chart for the Stage 1 Can Do Cubes: one for 1-5 and another for 6-8.

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:

I have been using Can Do Cubes with my daughter Zari. She just going into Kindergarten next year, is not yet reading, and doesn't know her letters or letter sounds very well. We have been doing one lesson a day in the Jolly Phonics book and using Can Do Cubes along with it. We also tried some of the PDF worksheets in the Teacher's Guide and Template Book and some of the other activities they recommend with them.

Can Do Cubes with Jolly Phonics

In the first Jolly Phonics Book Zari has been finding the cube phoneme that matches the phoneme being taught in the book. For example on the first page is has the letter "s". So I had her find the letter "s" in the tray and on the cubes and say the sound the letter makes as well as everything else it says to do in the book. When we got to page 4 in the book she found "t" and "s" and "a" and make those sounds. Then she would make the letters and words in the word bank with the Can Do Cubes, blend the sounds of the letters in the words together slowly...and then faster to make the word.

Can Do Cubes PDF worksheets in the Teacher's Guide and Template Book

We had some fun with these too. My eight year old daughter spelled some things and I spelled my nick name finamoon :) You can do all sorts of neat things with these cubes besides learning phonics. We liked that the Stage 2 tray had symbols for punctuation too so we could spell out whole sentences. We did wish these were laser-engraved darker, because some of the phonemes were very hard to read... especially since the letters were quite small already.

Fun with Can Do Cubes!

The Can Do Cubes are a fun multi-sensory, interactive way of learning phonics. We highly recommend them with any synthetic phonics curriculum. These are perfect for teaching literacy, phonics, and reading. Great for Pre-K and Kindergarten age students trying to master the English language.

Building words with Can Do Cubes

BUY IT (these are prices out of their current catalog as of this post)
You can purchase these from jollyliteracy.com from their catalog. The Can Do Cubes for Synthetic Phonics STARTER SET is $95 + applicable tax & shipping costs.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

jollyliteracy.com and just2ducks LLC Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review


My family had the privilege of trying the Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar from jollyliteracy.com and just2ducks LLC for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum. This is a Schoolhouse Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.

jollyliteracy.com makes Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar, a synthetic phonics and grammar program with interactive songs, stories and actions that go along with the student books and teacher's books. The Jolly Phonics program is multi-sensory, active, and perfect for younger children. It includes worksheets in three student books, and a teacher's guide. Jolly Grammar is to be used after the Jolly Phonics program. This is also multi-sensory and active. It includes worksheets in one book and a teacher's guide. There are also Jolly Songs on CD and printed so you can follow along that also go along with what is being taught.

Jolly Phonics, Jolly Grammar, and Jolly Songs.

Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Included:
  • Jolly Phonics Teacher's Book in print letters
  • Jolly Phonics Student Book 1, 2 and 3
  • Jolly Grammar 1 Teacher's Book in print letters
  • Jolly Grammar 1 Student Book
  • Jolly Songs in print letters

The Jolly Phonics Teacher's Book in print letters takes you through how to teach phonics to your student the Jolly Phonics way. The book is divided into two sections: a comprehensive introduction to Jolly Phonics and the teaching method with yellow page borders and structured lesson plans for use with the Student Books with red (Student Book 1), blue (Student Book 2), and green (Student Book 3) page borders. The first section is further divided into five basic skills that are taught: Learning the Letter Sounds, Learning Letter Formation, Reading (Blending), Identifying the Sounds in Words, and Tricky Words. The first four of these are taught simultaneously from the start and the last skill, tricky words, is taught after the first few weeks. The second section has lesson plans first using Student Book 1 explaining using flashcards, a story to tell, actions to do, formation of letters, blending of letters with sounds being taught in words, sounding of words to listen for the letter sound, word bank words, dictation of calling out sounds for students to write, and further ideas, etc. For Student Book 2 the lesson plans go into more detail with alternatives, handwriting, tricky words, and words & sentences. For Student Book 3 it has lesson plans which go over the alternatives, tricky words, short or long vowel?, and comprehension pages.

The Jolly Phonics Student Book 1, 2 and 3 introduces the student to 43 letter sounds (42 if you count that the sound of c and k make the same sound). These short lessons are easily introduced at a rate of a letter a day. These are introduced in a specific order, not alphabetically so that children can start building words as early as possible. In the Student Book 1 each page with a letter to learn has it in both uppercase and lowercase, the action to do with a picture and description, a black and white line drawing picture to color, how to form the lowercase letter on the line for writing, a word and letter bank, and a listening activity. After the main workbook pages there are tricky words and other activity pages. In Student Book 2 it goes into more detail to teach alternatives (for sounds), handwriting, tricky words (words that don't sound like they are spelled), and words & sentences. For Student Book 3 it has alternatives, tricky words, short or long vowel? (if it is a vowel), and comprehension pages (which gets them to write the story told to them in their own words and draw a picture).

The Jolly Grammar 1 Teacher's Book in print letters takes you through how to teach grammar to your student the Jolly Grammar way. Jolly Grammar is to be used after the Jolly Phonics program. The book is divided into two sections: a comprehensive introduction to Jolly Grammar and the teaching method and structured lesson plan for each day of teaching with the Jolly Grammar 1 Student Book. Jolly Grammar teaches: parts of speech, plurals, punctuation, and the tenses past, present, and future. It also teaches spelling rules including: vowel digraphs, alternative spellings of vowel sounds, plural endings, short vowels and consonant doubling, tricky words, and consonant blends. In Jolly Grammar colors and actions are used to help children identify parts of speech in sentences, for example verbs are red and nouns are black. This makes it easier to remember and more fun to learn.

The Jolly Songs in print letters is a music CD with a book of the words of each song in print. There are 40 CD tracks that teach phonemes: s, a, t, i, p, n, c/k, e, h, r, m, d, g, o, u, l, f, b, ai, j, oa, ie, ee or, z, w, ng, v, oo oo, y, x, ch, sh, th th, qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar, & vowels. All of these songs are sung to well known tunes and the book that accompanies the CD also has games and activities that are ideal for car trips.

Zari working out of the Jolly Phonics Student Book 1.

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:

I have been using Jolly Phonics with my daughter Zari. She just going into Kindergarten next year, is not yet reading, and doesn't know her letters or letter sounds very well. We have been doing one lesson a day and she seems to be enjoying it. She is not yet ready for the Jolly Grammar and so I will be doing that with her after she finishes and masters the Jolly Phonics Student Books.

The first Jolly Phonics Student Book is very thorough so far. Zari and I have liked the stories, Jolly Songs, and actions the most. Since she is still mastering knowing her letters and letter sounds and printing them, she needed help on these things. I am glad that Jolly Phonics seems to be helping her learn her phonics and letters. She likes that it is fun and interactive.

We love this curriculum and recommend it to homeschoolers needing to teach phonics or grammar. These are great for beginning literacy and reading. We have also been using jollyliteracy.com Can Do Cubes in addition to the Jolly Phonics...so look for that review soon.

BUY IT (these are prices out of their current catalog as of this post)

You can purchase these from jollyliteracy.com from their catalog. The Jolly Phonics Student Books are $4.50 a piece and the Teacher's Book is $12.95. The Jolly Songs book and CD is $17.50. The Jolly Grammar 1 Student Book in print is $7.50 and the Teacher's Book is $8.50.

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Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar Review

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Enlivenze LLC Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle Review #ShakeStirSolve


My family had the privilege of trying the Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle from Enlivenze LLC for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum. This is a Schoolhouse Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.

Enlivenze LLC are the makers of the creatively fun and highly addicting FlipStir Puzzles. They were looking for smart active play and their ideas made something very unique. This is a great company with wonderful ambitions and an eye for innovation.

The FlipStir Puzzles are award-winning art-inspired handheld toys that challenge the mind. These all enclosed, self-contained puzzles are made up of ten plastic pieces that make up a picture when solved. These plastic pieces are three-dimensional (3D) and half-moon shaped with one of the flat sides having a piece of the picture. They are totally surrounded inside a tube that you can see through. This tube has a ball that is attached to a moveable wand on one end that allows the player to flip and stir the puzzle pieces within the tube. To solve the puzzle all you have to do is line up the pieces in the correct order to reveal the artwork. Then you can shake the tube to mix the pieces up once again and start the process over. There are 5 different puzzles, all of them require no batteries and are made in the USA. They come in two different difficulty levels and are designed for 7 and up.

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:

I love trying new games and toys that look like they would give my family a challenge or have some educational properties. The FlipStir Puzzle is both of these things. It improves eye-hand coordination, problem solving, fine motor development, patience, and self esteem.

Rainbow Dash approves of the Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle :)

We received the Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle to try out. I chose this one because of its bright fun colors and that is was a level 1, so that maybe all my kids could try it out. I was very enthusiastic about this puzzle and wanted my kids to share my interest in this neat toy, but at first I was met with disapproving shrugs and shaking of heads. My kids didn't warm up to this inventive toy right away like I thought they would.

I love this puzzle because it is completely encapsulated. The pieces cannot come out of the tube and therefore won't be lost. I wish all my puzzles were like this because my kids are notorious for loosing pieces to things! I also believe these to be a perfect on-the-go travel game for this very purpose!

Yay me! I solved it!

After I myself sat down to try and solve the Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle the inquisitive eyes from my younger children came over to watch me in my endeavor. I solved the puzzle in about 10 minutes, noting that you could put the word "RAINBOW" reading from top to bottom or bottom to top depending upon how the pieces were positioned in the tube. I liked holding the tube sideways while I worked the pieces into position and found that working from one side to the other was the easiest for me. After showing that the puzzle was indeed solvable to my children they proceeded to try it for themselves. I guess they needed some inspiration and a little coaxing first although for them it was a good test in patience.

Teela trying to solve the Rainbow Pencils FlipStir Puzzle.

BUY IT
All FlipStir Puzzles are $24.95 as of this post. You can purchase them through the Enlivenze LLC website.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Spanish Program, with the Starter Set 1 Review

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Spanish Program Starter Set 1.

My family had the privilege of trying the Spanish Program, with the Starter Set 1 from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum. This is a Schoolhouse Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids is a program founded by Kit Strauss. She created Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids because of the lack of quality foreign language programs geared towards children and she wanted something for her three sons. Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids is geared towards ages 3 and up. It teaches how to speak and understand practical words in Spanish for everyday use in a short amount of time. With immersion and visuals this program is great for the whole family combining real life situations with humor and fun.


The Spanish Program Starter Set 1 Includes:
  • Spanish DVD, Vol. 1 with videos Levels 1-3 - Flight 101: Basketballs Aren't for Breakfast, Flight 102: The Little Magic House Part 1, and Flight 103: The Little Magic House Part 2. These are stories of kids speaking Spanish in funny realistic situations.
  • Three Parent-Teacher Guides (one for each level) - includes video summary, vocabulary list in both Spanish and English, geography, suggested lesson plans with activities to do, extended learning activities, course completion award and picture of Squisher (the international inchworm) to cut out.
  • Flashcards and Go Squish Card Game for Levels 1 to 3 - Set of 150 flashcards that have the student match cards with memorable scenes in the videos to words or phrases in Spanish. These flashcards are in three distinct colors (blue, green, and pink to go with orange books) to similarly match the teachers guides and workbooks that this set comes with. The bonus Go Squish! card game is similar to Go Fish, but all in Spanish and the object is to get Squisher flyer miles enough for an airline ticket to get him to his destination.
  • Workbooks for Levels 1-3 - These workbooks have activities, culture, Squisher says (which is a comic with the inchworm in it), and an answer key. 
  • Stickers Set for Flight 101: Basketballs Aren't for Breakfast - Place these around the house or classroom to reinforce Spanish vocabulary that was taught in the first video.

Teela and Zari watching the Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Spanish DVD.

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:

All of us enjoyed the DVD. These episodes are an essential and mandatory part of the program. We liked how each episode started as an in-flight-movie on FLK Airlines. It was fun watching the three main characters, which were brothers, go about their daily lives speaking Spanish. There were some funny parts and things that kept it interesting and engaging. My kids loved this way of learning Spanish, not by reading or writing, but through context and clues. To keep it an immersive experience we as teachers and parents are told not to tell the students the word translations or the video summaries. It seemed like the Spanish was sinking in better than previous programs we have tried and the videos made us feel a part of this Spanish speaking household. I thought the "Rapid Review" of each part was very nice at summing up the vocabulary learned and helped my kids remember what was taught and helping me to know if they are ready to move on or repeat the session.

I was instructed to read the first three pages of the first Teacher's Guide which was "How To Get Started". It went over an overview of the program, program goals, about the guide, and who/where to contact if you have questions. These Parent-Teacher Guides are very helpful with giving different lesson plans so you can pick the one that suits your learner the best or pick multiple ones so that your learner can experience more than one. These activities are an extension of the learning from the DVDs. I liked how they had all sorts of learning activities that coordinated with different subjects; for example: geography, grammar, and vocabulary. They also have games, workbook pages, flashcard games, review, etc. in the lesson plans.

I was expecting the flashcards to have the picture and name of the object in Spanish on the front and the English word equivalent on the back or the picture with the English word and the Spanish word on the other side. Instead I found that because of the immersive qualities of this program the flashcards were pictures from the DVDs along with other cards with Spanish words and phrases they matched up to. Each were placed on one side of the card only with the Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids logo on the back. These cards are printed on glossy card-stock so as to preserve the quality longer. The Go Squish! Card Game instructions were a bonus that came with our set and for a limited time it is included in the sets and some of the products.

Teela working in the Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Spanish Program workbook.

Since there is only one set of workbooks that we received with this set I picked my 8 year old daughter to do them. These are best for grades 3 and up, but Teela is a strong reader and just going into 3rd. These helped expand her knowledge of the words and phrases with fun crosswords, word searches, geography information, facts, idioms, comics, etc. Teela loved doing these workbooks.

The stickers we will be placing around our home to help us learn Spanish. These are 9 pages of large print Spanish words and phrases in full color. These will help me reinforce the concepts learned in the DVD. These also help my kids see the actual word in written format.

This Spanish for kids is a wonderful program! We love this for learning homeschool Spanish. We recommend it as a Spanish curriculum for all homeschoolers. We hope to be able to partake of more of the Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Spanish Program soon because we really enjoyed the Starter Set 1.



BUY IT
The Starter Set 1 is regularly $165.00, but it's on sale now through August 31st for just $140.25! That's a savings of 15%! For a limited time the Go Squish! Card Game instructions are included.

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Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Talking Fingers Inc. Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy Review


My family had the privilege of trying a one-year subscription of the new online version of the Talking Shapes: A Supplemental Curriculum for Early Literacy app from Talking Fingers Inc. for this review to use in conjunction with our own homeschool curriculum. This is a Schoolhouse Review Crew Review. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family.

Talking Fingers Inc. is an educational program developer that is largely funded by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Their programs help young children with early literacy. One of their educational programs is called Talking Shapes.

Taking Shapes up until just recently was an app for iPad that teaches preschool and kindergarten age children to learn to identify letters and their sounds and learn to read. It now is available as an online version in which you can access though your computer browser. Dr. Jeannine Herron, a neuropsychologist, developed this program. Talking Shapes involves both left (logic, math, science) and right (creativity, arts) sides of the brain for more proficient reading. This program is intended for ages 4-5 and shows children that the words they can say are made up of letters they can see! Talking Shapes is seven interactive storybooks that when completed will introduce all 40 speech sounds (phonemes) from the English language and the letters that stand for those sounds. This program raises phoneme awareness.

How We Used This and Our Thoughts:

My daughter Zari is going into kindergarten this upcoming homeschool year so we decided she would be great for this Talking Shapes. She has had a hard time learning her letters and their sounds. We hoped that this program would help her.

We found that the Talking Shapes online program loaded super slow on our computer, but we do have sluggish internet speeds. When you first login to Talking Fingers Inc. Talking Shapes and finally get to the storybook map you will see only the first book in color and all the others greyed out. There are seven total books/lessons to do. You must have your child do this in the order that is given by numbers by the book covers in order for them to progress through the series. Your student will be able to move on to the next book when the first story and lesson is completed, but not before.

Zari enjoying the Talking Shapes story.

When you click on a story book in the series it loads and sings a song to start about the vowels. It then has a starting menu with Story, Letters, Spell, and Read to pick from. We just clicked on the first one, Story. It tells the story of two girls from the past that want to remember their stories that they have told others and devise a plan to create letters and an alphabet to be able to write the words down. This is the listening part of the program.

Zari Drawing Letters in Talking Shapes.

This story goes on to show the child the Letters that are introduced first in this story book. The child also learns through pictures how to recognize the letter. For example, a snake in the shape of a S, a tree in the shape of a T, a mountain in the shape of a M, a pear to form the uppercase P, or an acrobat with her arms in the general shape of an A, etc. These are the Talking Shapes that help the child remember the sound and shape of the letter. When the student clicks on the pictures they say the sound of the letter. The student also goes through a sequence of tracing the letters (with the mouse pointer or finger/stylus on a touch screen) on the Talking Shapes picture with outlines of the letter, on an actual letter outlined, and a Talking Shapes picture without outlines of the letter. You also draw letters to make two-three letter words. This is the drawing part of the program.

Zari spelling words in Talking Shapes.

The Spell portion of the activities is next. Words are introduced with the letters they learned previously. The program first has the student spell, trace, place together, and sound out each letter in the picture they give for three letter words. They have to find the correct letter to place in the highlighted box, trace it, go on to the next letter, trace it, place them together, find the last letter, trace it, and place it together with the rest of the letters. We liked how the letters had to be manually placed together so that the blend could be heard. The student does this with the letter outlines on the pictures first, then just the letter outlines, then just the pictures without outlines. This is the game part of the program.

Zari reading words in Talking Shapes.

After this section is the Read section in which the program first reads the child a short four sentence story with the words they learned then it leaves out one of the words. Words go by in flying pictures at the top of the screen and the child has to click on the correct one for the sentence to complete it before the word disappears off the screen. When the correct one is picked the pictures pop and the word appears correctly in the sentence where it was. These fill in the blanks help reinforce the words that were taught before.

A Preview of Some of the Stories and What They Teach...
  1. The Fat Cat: Introduces the uppercase consonants C, F, S, H, and T along with some sounds they make and the short vowel sound of uppercase A. The words CAT, FAT, SAT, and HAT are also introduced.
  2. The Silly Hen: Introduces the uppercase consonants P, N, M, L, along with some sounds they make and the short and long vowel sound of uppercase E. The names PAT and NAT and the words MAN, FAN, PAN, CAN, MEN, HEN, PEN, PET, MET, NET, LET, HE, ME, TAP, SET, NAP, MAP, LAP, HAM are also introduced.
  3. The Dancing Pig: Introduces the uppercase consonants  B, G, J, D, W, along with some sounds they make and the short vowel sound of uppercase I. The words PIN, BIB, BIG, JET, DIG, WIG, LEG, BAG, BED, SAD, JAM, BAT, DAD are also introduced.
  4. and so on...

What we disliked about Talking Shapes:
  • It loads super slow. This is very frustrating!
  • To draw/trace the letter the child only needs to move the cursor or finger around the picture area until the letter is filled in. This encourages scribbling rather than actually tracing the letter correctly. 
  • We have only seen the program cover uppercase/capital letters and we are on the 4th book.
What we liked about Talking Shapes:
  • The story is cute and engaging.
  • The program is educational and interactive.
  • It is fairly repetitious which is great for this age group.
  • It is great for visual, tactile kinesthetic, and auditory learners.

My daughter Zari loves Talking Shapes. I could see it actually help her grasp letter concepts that she hasn't been able to before. She is finally beginning to understand basic phonics, letter sounds, letter shapes, and how to build words better. I am very happy with this program and its ability to help my daughter learn her letters and simple words easier so that she can learn to read.

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Read other homeschool curriculum reviews for Talking Fingers Inc. Talking Shapes...
Talking Shapes {Talking Fingers Inc. Review}

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Garden Lites SuperFood Veggie Cakes Now at Northwest Costco Stores! Garden Lites Review


Garden Lites are delicious and healthy snacks, muffins, and entrees that are packed with vegetables as the first and main ingredient. These nutrient-rich, heart-healthy foods are vegetarian and GMO free. A lot of their products are also gluten free, dairy free, nut free, soy free, and/or allergen free (look at packaging to make sure). Most do contain eggs. Look for Garden Lites at many stores across the US in the refrigerated section, including local to me stores like: New Seasons Market, Whole Foods Market, Target, Walmart, and now Costco!!

Garden Lites products we received.

We got to try Garden Lites: SuperFood Veggie Cakes, Chocolate Muffins, and Blueberry Oat Muffins. I love the fact that they are all easy to heat up and take with you on-the-go. These are also great for a snack or side dish. These were all very yummy and I'd definitely buy them if I saw them in the store.

Garden Lites SuperFood Veggie Cakes are small veggie-rich cakes that are only 100 calories per cake and have a Weight Watchers PointsPlus value of 3. These are vegetarian, GMO free, gluten free, dairy free, and nut free. Like all Garden Lites, vegetables are their first ingredient. They are packed with a super food veggie blend of carrot, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, onion, red bell pepper, and zucchini! These are available exclusively at Costco in the refrigerated section as a box of 12 veggie cakes. These should be kept refrigerated or frozen until eaten.

I found these very tasty and easy to make. Since it has been hot here and the oven heats up my house my preferred method was popping them in the microwave for about 25 seconds. You can also cook them in the oven or toaster oven on 250 degrees on a baking sheet for 12 minutes. These cakes reminded me of a Japanese recipe I have made in the past called Okonomiyaki (vegetable pancakes) or a vegetable filled quiche/souffle. I love these for breakfast, snack, or with a meal. I can easily pack them for lunches when my family goes on outings too. I love how healthy and delicious these are and that I can understand all the ingredients on the packaging.

Garden Lites SuperFood Veggie Cakes and Muffins.

Garden Lites Muffins come in a assortment of flavors with seven different variations. These are great at getting vegetables into your family's diet without compromising the flavor and if your kids are picky eaters these might just be the ticket to a healthier snack alternative. Comes individually wrapped in BPA free plastic and the box contains 4-6 muffins depending upon the variety. These should be kept frozen until eaten.

We got to try their Chocolate Muffins and Blueberry Oat Muffins. They are both packed with fresh zucchini and carrots. They are both: a good source of fiber (3g) and whole grains (5g), vegetarian, GMO free, allergy-friendly, gluten free, dairy free, and nut free. At 120 calories per muffin these have a Weight Watchers PointsPlus value of 3. These have 4 muffins per package and are easy to pop in the microwave bag and all on high for 10 seconds if defrosted or 35 seconds if frozen (although microwaves do vary and mine seemed to want an additional 10-35 seconds so the middle wasn't still cold). You can also defrost at room temperature for about 4 hours if you aren't in a hurry to eat them right away.

The Chocolate Muffins are similar to lava cakes I've eaten. They are moist with a gooey center of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. The very first two ingredients are zucchini and carrots and you can hardly taste them! They are hidden and you won't even know they're there. My kids and I liked them and ate 'em up.

The Blueberry Oat Muffins are delicious and moist with plump blueberries filled inside. You can see the shredded carrots and zucchini if you look, but these are delicious anyway. They also have gluten-free oats in them along with other gluten free ingredients. My kids and I liked these best because blueberries are one of our favorite berries!

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BUY IT
You can now find the Garden Lites SuperFood Veggie Cakes at Costco Stores across the country, including Texas, the Southeast, the Southwest, the Northwest and the Northeast regions. You can order these online if you live in the Continental US with free shipping at Healthy Goodness. You can also locate a store near you to purchase the other Garden Lites products.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I received this product for free to facilitate this review. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for doing this review.