For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ideas to Keep Your Toddler Busy

My little baby has turned one a few weeks ago. Wow, times fly! He has learned to walk and he is a rather busy toddler. What do I do to keep him busy? Here are a few ideas to keep a 9-18 month old busy:

Food exploration: food is always fun to play with. At that age babies love exploring and discover new textures; food offers a wide range of those. I am not one to like mess, so I do not let him play with his food at meal time, but during play time I give him textured food to explore with.

On/off , in/out play activities: I have discovered that my little boy loves to put covers on top of things (pots, bottles, anything.). Also, taking stuff out of containers is one of his favorite activity to do. So go fill a basket, a pot, anything you have on hand with all sort of different stuff and watch your child having fun emptying it. Only downside is that you have to refill it again....

Peekaboo and hide and seek game: My baby has always enjoyed me playing peekaboo with him. This game has reached new levels as he can now do it too. Use hands, blankets, whatever you have on hand will do. He loves it too when I hide somewhere and call him name or say "Where is mommy". I love doing that especially when I do not want him to go a certain place.

Playing with balls: Balls are fascinating to babies and toddlers. My son loves playing with balls of any size. He enjoys playing with it himself or watching his brothers play with it.

Books: My boy loves books. So what I do is recreate the library in my home by making book displays at different spots in the house and let him have at it. I even heard of someone who would set up books at the corner of the staircase. I probably will try that one my little one stops dropping things down the stairs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Home School in the Woods - TOS Review

If you are a hands-on homeschooler or you and your kids like playing games. You might be interested in this latest review of  mine. Home School in the Woods has been putting together homeschooling resources that enhances any homeschool for years. The range of products they offer is just too large to be listed. They cover every subject and time periods as well as variety of resources. The crew was blessed to be able to review quite array of their products which can be found in their A La Carte line of products which gather different project from other collections . These include file folder games, lap books, activity packs, file folder projects, 3D crafts, and newspaper activities. I decided to give the Art Gallery file folder game a try.

The reason why I picked this particular resource is because we have not done much Art study in our homeschool and I thought this would be a fun way of adding some.
The product is digital, so it needs to be downloaded, printed and put together. The instructions are straight forward and easily followed. I had no problem putting it together. The game consists of a board, 60 playing cards, and 4 markers (so for player, but can be played with more). The goal of the game is to recognize the art pieces, author, name, year and style of art. You start from anywhere on the board and it ends with the fist player who makes a full round back to that spot.  If you are not familiar with file folder games, it is all about printing the parts of a game and gluing them unto a one or two file folders that you assemble together. You sometimes have to color the pieces too. I had the options of doing it for this game, but did not.

Once I had it together and ready to play I realized that it would be a real challenge, as we did not know the answers, except for maybe a couple of art pieces.  The boys and I had to improvise, they did not want to study the card ahead (which was my first idea), so we decided instead to play it as a guessing game, based on the info present on the pictures on the board. The way Amy put the game together, the board had all the artists on it with brief information on each one of them. This trick really helped us guess the who  part and the era part. As we played the game we were getting better at recognizing the style of the artist and guessing them based on that.

Bottom line, this game is best played by people who have learned some art works in the past as a review game. If, like me you know very little, it will take a few try to first learn the works (unless you decide to study the cards first - which is definitely an option), and eventually play it as a Trivia game. Either way I think it could be quite effective. This game targets grades 3-12 and I would say it definitely can be used in some form or way for any of these grades.

Covers quite a few art works and artists
Easy to play

Requires prior knowledge but can easily be adapted to fit your need

There were so many options given to us, I actually had a hard time picking which one we were going to review a few others that I eyed were:

  • Literary Genre Lap Book  Mini-Study
  • The War to End All War file folder game
Make sure to check the reviews for the other products we all got to review.

À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Parenting Made Practical - TOS Review

Parenting is hard. Anyone who has or is raising kids will tell you this. There is no way around making it easier, it is just what it is. No matter the age your kids are a , there are challenges to being a parent. That said, learning to deal with kids and raise them the best way possible, can definitely be helpful and make the whole process less stressful as well as more purposeful.

This is where this resource I was given the opportunity to review comes in. I was not familiar with it until it came up for review, but I must say it is a good one. Parenting Made Practical offers parenting resources to help parents navigate those parenting waters and challenges. Its goal is to equip parents with tools to help children become responsible adults. They offer a wide array of books and DVDs.  I chose to review the Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting your Kids to Think video download.

There is lots to say about the video I watched. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very helpful. Some of the material was not new, but put into a different light and presented in a quite enjoyable way. It made the material fresh again, and renewed the challenge for me.

The material at Parenting Made Practical is put together by a couple used to dealing with youth and families in church and other contexts (the husband having served as Youth and Family pastor and the wife being a social worker). As such they know the challenges and needs of families. They are able to come up with resources that address exactly those needs. Their  material offers help in parenting children from age 2 to college. Here is a list of books and videos you can find on their website:

Why Can't I Get My Kids to Behave?
Navigating the Rapids of Parenting
Dating, Courting & Choosing a Mate... What Works?
What Every Child Should Know Along the Way

What I liked about the video I watched

I do not know about you but lecturing my kids is second nature and is a very easy trap to fall into even if we know better. In this video Joey and Carla Link explain and demonstrate to you the failure of lecturing (or nagging or yelling), your kids as well as how to avoid doing it by showing what to replace it with. They take your hand and show you step by step a better way. The better way being to lead them to think about their behaviour and owning it. The lecture has a lot of aspects that make it enjoyable to watch, as well as very helpful:
  • They cover a lot of topics in a 50 minutes video. They manage to include a description of temperament types which is helpful to take into consideration when learning how to avoid lecturing
  • The husband and wife team-teaching is very effective as it becomes a dialogue. They even included a live example with the help of their daughter, making it more interesting
  • They do try to include some humor, even of the whole lecture looks and sound pretty scripted and somewhat rigid
  • The video is just the right length. Though 50 minutes sounds long, I can guarantee you that you won't see the time pass, that is how engaging Joey and Carla are more because of the content that is covers than the style itself 
  • A good addition is how they include extra resources for the audience to check out to complement their teaching.
  • The style of teaching is very direct yet gentle. They say things the way they are, while in the same breadth giving you hope and solutions to correct the problem or bad habit.
  • The advice and tips are very detailed and practical.
  • I also love how the steps appeared on the screen as they went through them.
This video was very helpful to me as I was reminded of some habits that I had neglected, such as not accepting certain types of answers or putting off doing something to a later time. I had already been doing some of the things they talked about, such as the whole questioning approach, but it was nice to be given extra tips and advice on how to do that even more efficiently. Joey and Carla rightly put the emphasis on the heart of behavior and not just external behavior change, and for that they are a resource I would definitely recommend. That said, like every parenting  resource, every parent has to see for himself how to best apply the principles being advocated, and not necessarily apply them blindly.

Find Parenting Made Practical on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and make sure to check the reviews of the other material they offer.

Parenting Made Practical {Reviews}

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wordless Wednesday - Science Center Days

We had a field trip at the Science Center today. While the older boys were having fun with friends and enjoying a Mars mission lab, baby Al discovered the place for the first time!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bytes of Learning - TOS Review

Typing has never been my strong suit. You would think as a blogger I should have that down, but I don't. So, when a curriculum that teaches typing came along for review, I thought this would be something I should probably try.

Bytes of Learning is a company that specializes on developing multimedia software to aid students (as young as 8 years old ), and adults learn better. Members of the crew were given the opportunity to try out their UltraKey Online Family Subscription with access for a full year.

Before having the kids try this software I decided to take the review period to test it on myself. The way this software works is actually pretty straight forward. There is nothing to download, it is all done online. Once you've got your account set up, you are welcome with this screen from where you can access your dashboard.

The dashboard is a very important place in UltraKey because this is where you set up and manage everyone who will be using the program. The family subscription allows you 7 users , each with their own sign in which the main user sets. UltraKey is very adaptable and offers you many options. The student enrollment is the most basic. UltraKey allows you to manage the family as a whole (common features such as access to games and forum), and also to manage each student. When it comes to managing the students, there is an array of setting you can go through:
  • Goal setting, which is very detailed and specific: speed, accuracy, with custom or automated options
  • Setting of the interface itself: background color, sound, practice amount, coaching intensity
  • Goal and progress report
Each section of the program has an introductory video which explains to you what it is about. There is also a thorough PDF guide that details to you every aspect of the program.

I really like this program. What I appreciate most is the fact that it is like having an instructor that guides you step by step. The program is incremental. It starts with the real needed basics such as posture and position of the fingers. Then with each lesson you are introduced to a set of new keys. As you go though the lessons, the practices are pointed enough that it allows you to really internalize what you are learning. Though you can set your own practice amount in the dashboard, you can also do more or less during the lesson itself.  I love the repetition. You can only move forward as you reach the goal for each lesson, usually in both accuracy and speed;  the next level gets unlocked. The program teaches you typing by introducing letter pairs and chains.

The program is so engaging that it is easy to just keep working. I found that what stopped me was tiredness of the fingers or brain starting to go numb. Mentally I found myself wanting to do more, but could not focus anymore. I love the way the assessment details to you what you did wrong and gives you tips on how to improve. I also love the voice over which works well for auditory learners  and visual learners.

On top of the lessons, the student can have extra practice though the forum or in the game section.

The program works on all platforms. The software  is oriented towards the American keyboard and North America spelling and content. A UK and an Australian/New Zealand orientation is coming  in 2018.

I am looking forward to have the boys use this program and I know they will enjoy it and that it would be beneficial.

UltraKeys is an innovative, engaging online keyboarding software which I think would work for many. Check out Bytes of Learning on their Facebook page.

UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Week in Review in 5

I am going to try a new weekly post where I will share our week in 5 points. So let's start.

1. This week has been a pretty snowy week here for us in Toronto.

2. In our History co-op, we resumed back after a week off and I had fun teaching a rhetoric class aon Ghandi.

3. I discovered a cool series of Storybook DVD's for Daniel

4. With me borrowing so many books from the library it brings back a lot of memories from when my older boys were younger. I am feeling nostalgic :-)

5. This week we had fun trying a few recipes from the Goodfood company. We were blessed with a coupon that allowed us to get 3 free meals. I have to say they were pretty good! I love how you do not need anything from your own pantry except salt and pepper.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Curriculum We Have Loved Using - Virtual Homeschool Fair -Week 3

Welcome back to week 3 of the Virtual Homeschool Fair hosted by Homeschooling Hearts and Minds. This week we will be sharing what we actually are using with our children.

Since I already have a run down of all the curriculum we are using this year in the post  2017-2018 Curriculum Line up, here I will share with you the curriculum companies I have loved using during our 10 years of Homeschooling.

As I mentioned last week, our homeschool debut was geared towards classical education, so I have had an affinity to classical homeschool companies over the years. These include:
  • Tapestry of Grace: This has been our core curriculum for the humanities up to now. It incorporates History, Geography, literature, worldview and in the High School years Philosophy and Government. It involves lots of reading and critical thinking. The past 3 years I have had the boys join an online co-op to enhance the discussion aspect of the curriculum.
  • Classical Academic Press: I love this company. I have used their Latin curriculum, Latin for Children, and am currently using their Writing and Rhetoric series, which I started at book one. We are now at book 6.  I have also loved using their logic series, The Art of Argument, last year, and this year the Discovery of Deduction(or the next year, since we still have not started it).
  • The Well Trained Mind: I used their First Language Lessons program all the way to level 4 (skipping level 3)
  • Michael Clay Thompson curriculum. We have mainly used and loved their Grammar program, which we used up to the 1st book of the high school level. I am still debating whether to keep going. or not.... I like the whole language approach it offers.
Other companies I have loved include:
  • Veritas Press. I enjoyed their Bible curriculum, and they also have a good History program, which we tried out one year for a review.
  • Life of Fred, which worked better for my Math oriented son. I am still using it with him
  • Bible Road Trip. This is a Bible curriculum that I really like. It goes through the whole Bible in three years and includes memorization and thinking question. Unfortunately I dropped the ball on the third year, but am still hoping to give this another rotation.
  • The Logic of English, which I really enjoyed using with the boys for Phonic and Spelling. You can read my review for more details about it.
When it comes to science, we have jumped around a lot when it comes to curriculum and I have yet to find a curriculum that I truly love and embrace. The two that came close are Visual Learning System (which was a review item), and Classic Science, although I kind of like Real Science 4 Kids as well but found them not meaty enough.

Same story applies for our math journey, though we have used CTC math for most of the years, as I kept getting it for review. Last year we switched to Lifepac (Alpha &Omega), more because we wanted to witch to paper Math. Their foundation gained with CTC seems to be strong enough.

Looking for more curriculum ideas? Visit my fellow homeschool bloggers! 
Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 22nd.

Our Homeschool Plan for 3rd, 6th, 8th, & 12th Grades by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Our 10th Grade Plans by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Planning Out Our Unschooling Studies by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
The Details of Curriculum by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Reflections of a Curriculum Junkie by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
Freedom through nature journaling. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
How I pull together a homeschool curriculum without packaged curriculum by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Our Favorite Curriculum and Resources - An Annotated Bibliography by Sabrina @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
Our 2018 Homeschool Curriculum Choices by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Top Home Educating Resources by Sarah @ DeliveringGrace
Homeschooling Curriculum We Are Using This Year by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Use the Force and Complete the Course by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Choices, choices - how to choose your curriculum wisely by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
Our Curriculum Needs - grade seven by Annette @ A Net in Time
The Heart of Our School by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
What We Have Loved Using - Virtual Homeschool Fair -Week 3 by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
How to Avoid Gaps in Education by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset
Tricky Subjects and Starting the Decision Making Process by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
High School Syllabus by TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy @ GoldenGrasses
How We Homeschool Together (Our Curriculum Choices for Preschool, First, and Tenth Grade) by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine

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