Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A TOS Review: Reading Kingdom Online

Let’s talk about reading.

We have had somewhat of a “love/hate relationship” with reading in our house. I LOVE to read. Books have been some of my favorite friends. You can imagine that I was floored when it was discovered that Josiah is dyslexic.

He does not like to read. We have spent quite a few years trying to find the perfect approach to help him in his reading struggles. One such approach was one we reviewed a few years ago. Reading Kingdom Online from Reading Kingdom. I was thrilled to be able to review it again.

How did you learn to read? A certain generation learned to read via Dick and Jane.  This was sometimes called the Look/Say method. Many of us learned to read using phonics. In phonics students are taught rules concerning letters and combination of letters. Another method is called Whole Language. Whole Language Instruction teaches reading by recognizing words as whole pieces of language. 

Primarily, Phonics and Whole Language Instruction is what is used today.

Both methods are flawed. Our issues with phonics has been always been the 600 +  rules. And the exceptions. Whole Language Instruction on the other hand focuses little on sound. There is little structure within Whole Language Instruction and the Boy needs a pattern of some sort to follow.

The battle between Phonics and Whole Language Instruction has been waged for nearly a century.

The wise teacher uses a combination of both methods. Reading Kingdom does not focus simply on one or the other. The program uses a method using six skills. These are:

Phonics sounds
Word meanings
Reading Comprehension

One of the beauties of the program is that it uses play as instruction. I have found in my years of teaching a dyslexic boy to read is that you have to present the material in a variety of ways. He needs to see it, hear it, write it or touch it if need be. Using games to help him in his journey has been invaluable.

Before I tell you about our review this time around I need to tell you that when a student finishes Reading Kingdom he or she will be able to read at a 3rd grade level. It is intended for children ages 4-10. However (and this is important), I love using it for Josiah. He is 13 and reads ABOVE a 3rd grade level at this point in his schooling. Which is HUGE!

But. I have discovered that these kiddos who struggle need constant practice. Using Reading Kingdom has not only allowed him to practice some of those basic skills, but has increased his confidence.

Let’s talk about our Reading Kingdom experience.

The very first thing your child is asked is to take a few placement tests. They are called Skill Surveys.
We had a minor disaster happen in the middle of Josiah’s Skill Survey 1. His headphones broke inside the speaker mount on the computer.

Oh yes they did!

Bless his heart. He soldiered on and took the test. I am sure I could have emailed the company and they would have been more than happy for Josiah to retake the test.  As it was, Josiah was placed in Letter Land. 

There are two sections in Reading & Writing Part 1. The first is Seeing Sequences. This section helps kiddos learn to attain visual scanning and memory skills. Both are essential for reading words and sentences.

Letter Land focuses on teaching the student to move around the keyboard with ease. I LOVE this. This is not a 10 finger typing course. I think it has an extra benefit. For Josiah it has required him to that much-needed interactive step towards reading. His fingers are involved which also engage his brain. You can adjust the amount of time that is required for a response if needed.

After Letter Land another Skill Survey is required. It is basically a reading assessment test. This test will determine what level of Reading Kingdom the student will start with. There are 5 different levels of readers within Reading Kingdom. Each Level has a variety of activities that build upon each other.

This program adjusts itself to the student. 

I just want to share with you a few of the activities we have encountered.  

This activity requires the student to locate the site word "A a" on the keyboard and the screen. They aren't merely to find the letter "a" ...just the word. The program will use the site word in a few different situations and activities so that it is really something the student has used in multiple ways. 

This activity is from the same lesson. Here the student has to locate the train that could spell "a kid."

This activity is just like the one above except the student has to find "a girl." This is a screen shot of one of the final activities of this lesson. The cards started off easier and then gradually got a little more difficult.

In between the "seek and find" activity of above are typing exercises. The student has to locate and type the missing letters in "a girl."

At the end of each lesson this screen appears. The student is given the opportunity to leave the site, review the lesson or move on to the next lesson. I love the review aspect. Sometimes they just need extra practice and help.

My Thoughts

I LOVE this program for my struggling reader. It moves slowly, but I like that. The lessons aren't long and don't require the student to inhale too much information at one setting. This is important for my guy. 

You will obviously need a good internet connection and speakers. What you won't need is a lot of time. There is practically NO parent prep. All I do is keep up with his progress. Because so many of Josiah's subjects require my onsite presence and participation I love that I can write down "Reading Kingdom" on his assignment sheet for the day. I know that he is learning and practicing. 

If you are a parent who has a struggling reader I suggest you take a look. Even if your child has progressed beyond the 3rd grade reading level I think you will find it to be invaluable practice and remediation. 

This is one of my Favorite reading resources! 

You can check out Reading Kingdom via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. I need to tell you that Reading Kingdom also has an online reading program for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) kiddos. Some of the Crew also reviewed that product. 

Reading Kingdom Review

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fixin' It Up For Fall:17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life

Week of 4 of my 17 Weeks of Learning to Live a Beautiful Life is here!

I am a bit late this week. I was busy living a beautiful life!

Mainly, I hung out with my guys and watched the new Avengers with my guys. It just came out on DVD. Josiah and I had already seen it in the theatres, but The Muffin had yet to have the pleasure.

Josiah was so cute. He kept looking back to see how his Dad was reacting to the movie.

I also blessed my family with hot dogs.

My menu plan included a corn chowder and banana bread pudding.

I don't think they missed anything.


Have you ever gone through a season in auto pilot? I, myself, have floated through the Christmas season only to come out the other end feeling like I never really got to enjoy it.

I was just plain busy or unprepared.

Some of Living a Beautiful Life is to prepare for it. Sometimes we have to intentionally make it happen. Our efforts don't have to be Martha Stewart worthy, but they need to be done with love.

This week I want to share some of my fall rituals. There is something so invigorating about the fall season. We live in a part of the country where you can see and smell the change in seasons.

I don't like to perform my rituals (I sound like some sort of occultist!) too early. In fact, the first day of fall fell on a warm and balmy day. I wore flip flops and vowed not to hang my fall wreath until I felt like throwing on some real shoes.

This week, however, it has been in the 40's overnight.

That, my friends, is real shoe wearing weather. At least first thing in the morning. After that I'm good for flip flops. Some people change clothes according to weather....I change shoes.

Flip Flops are cool. Unless you wear flip flops year round in the snow. You know who you are. You crazy people.

Back to the topic at hand.

Maybe some of what I do will inspire you to make your home and your life welcoming and a blessing.

Remember! It's those little moments that make a difference.

I literally have buckets and buckets of fall decorations in my storage building. Beautiful willow pumpkins, ceramic pumpkins....But because I live in such a small place I try and keep it simple.

These beautiful gourds are ones my Mom spiffed up. My Dad grew a whole bunch of them one year and she made some beautiful art out of a couple. They are some of my favorite things in her house.

Notice I said her house.  I am not as talented. Maybe you don't feel like you can do the same kind of work.  Don't be afraid to add a touch of fall art to your home.

Even if your "art" tends to be more of the cut and paste kind. Every November we put up a Thanksgiving Tree. I make leaf shapes and everyday we write out a blessing. This picture is from a few years ago. Thank goodness. I can see I need to approve the idea. 

I am a BIG believer in using what you have. I have had this tea pot for a few years. It's missing a lid, but it is a perfect vase for some twigs we gathered from the yard.

My door gets adorned with my fall wreath. I made this one a couple of years ago. I didn't have much money. I found the wreath at a thrift store with some of the grass already on it. I added the berries and everything else. The flowers I made from bits of fabric I had around the house. Use what you have! You can even see buttons on my wreath.

This year I added a string of orange lights and leaf garland (from the Dollar Tree) around our white board. I tried to take a picture of it...cause it is quite cute. It doesn't look as cute in my picture! I'm not sure this is before or after I said rotten things about my camera (it's misbehaving).

I also brought out my pumpkin candles and some fall hand towels that I had. Nothing big. My table is now covered in a tablecloth featuring fall colors and I found a pretty green cake platter at the Thrift Store to put in the middle.

My kitchen needed a little fall love, too!

Did you know you can make pumpkin muffins from just a can of pumpkin and a cake mix?

I made sure my baking spices were stocked up. Savory spices are a lot less expensive than those baking ones. I had to buy some over a few trips. I use cinnamon like some people use salt (not really, but it sounds healthier) so I had plenty of that. Think about the kinds of spices you use for this time of the year or for the holidays. This is a good recipe for pumpkin pie spice. It is so expensive in the store for such a little bit!  Making your own spice mixes can really help the budget. Don't forget any extracts you might use.

I also checked on my stash of canned apples and pumpkin puree. It's a good thing I have a reliable dealer (also known as Dad) who keeps me in all of the above. I don't think his pumpkins took off this year. I still have access to some pumpkin puree from last year. Next year is going to be messy. Our supply won't last another year.

 If you don't have your own dealer it doesn't cost a lot to stock up on canned pumpkin and applesauce. Either add such a wonderful flavor and texture to almost anything. Bits of apples or pumpkin might find their way in my pancakes, muffins and even chili (pumpkin!).  There is nothing better than blessing my family with an easy apple cake on a chilly evening.

I am sure you're the same, but many of my favorite chili and soup recipes have found their rotation in my menu planning once again. When I buy ingredients for any of my favorite recipes I try and buy extra if it is in my budget. For example, I have a wonderful recipe we love for Mexican Corn Chowder. If I have to purchase Rotel I buy and extra can or two. I can't always do this, but when I try when it's possible. It's my goal to have one or two warm suppers ready to put together.

 Because we are homeschoolers, I am able to add a bit of fall fun into our schooling. I also teach a reading club and will focus many of our activities around the fall season.

This year I have a few surprises in my lesson plan for my student (and students). Then I have a couple of activities that always make the rotation. Pumpkin science always has a place in our schedule....along with all these Pumpkin activities.  This is a Autumn Leaves study that you might find useful.

I haven't changed out my wardrobe yet from summer to fall. If you live in a seasonal climate you'll know what I'm talking about.  We can also be a hardy bunch here in the Ozarks. If it gets just a little sunny in the winter you will see fellas walking down the street with their shirts off. Really? Nothing like a little Hillbilly exhibition.

One of my Melted Flower Pins

If you have kids you understand that it can be even more of a challenging effort. Josiah has grown so much this summer. I had him try on some of his jeans the other day and OOPS! Boy is going to go pantless if we don't get on the ball. Thankfully, we have a cousin who has supplied us with hoodies and t-shirts . Don't you love hand-me-downs?

I am not one of the those girls who buys a whole new wardrobe with every season. I will make a few purchases if necessary. I also make sure I move my scarves to the head of my closet and my boots get an honored position. Accessorizing is a very important of making a frugal wardrobe look fancy so I need to make sure that I have jewelry and other fun accessories to complete my favorite outfits. You can check out my tutorial for making melted flower pins. So easy!

More than any other time of the year I start thinking about family time. I want to make sure we are seizing the day and spending quality time together. As the weather starts to change The Muffin will be cycling outdoors less. We will spend more of our free time at the Y and just hanging together as a family. Just the other day I took a peek at our games to see which ones we had added this year (Thrift Stores or Reviews!). I also have begun to make a list of movies we might want to "feature" on Family Movie Night. My guys like to eat so I make sure I stock on popcorn and hot chocolate. If they are really lucky I might bring out a batch of Christmas Fudge now and again! Just make a plan. Don't let those moments get away from you.

One of our favorite games is Headbandz Jr. This is my niece Alex a few years ago. How can you not spend time with a face like that? 

Enjoy the fall, my friends! Embrace it! Smell it! Breath it in! Bake that Pumpkin Pie...and don't wait for Thanksgiving.

Don't miss my other posts!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A TOS Review: Middlebury Interactive (Middle School Spanish)

I have been sadly neglecting Josiah’s Foreign Language education this year. We’ve had a smattering of a few different language instruction of the years.  Josiah has always done better with Spanish. I have read that students with dyslexia (of which Josiah is) have more success with Spanish than other languages. What the teacher has to keep in mind is that they will learn the foreign language easier if they are taught with the same multi-sensory methods that are effective in learning their own native language.

Just in time we had the chance to review Middle School Spanish 1 this year from Middlebury Interactive Languages.

Middlebury Interactive Languages provides online courses in Spanish, French, German and Chinese for homeschool students. The levels are as follows:

Elementary School  - Grades K- 5th
Middle School - Grades 6th-8th
High School - Grades 9th-12th

What drew my attention is the interactive approach this program uses to teach the lesson. The lessons are streamed online and uses a variety of techniques. I really appreciate that native speakers are used to teach.  You will, of course, need a computer with a reliable online connection and a set of speakers or headphones. There are also worksheets that can be printed off as needed.

I mentioned that we requested to review the Middle School Spanish Level 1. This course is intended for students in 6-8th grade. Josiah is in 8th grade and has studied basic Spanish.

This course is divided into 17 units. Each unit contains 10 lessons. There are also review units and an end-of-the semester exam.

I found it easy to navigate the lessons. I do believe it would have been easy for Josiah to do for himself, but for the sake of all that messing around of time I just did it in preparation of his day’s lessons.

The lessons only run about 15-20 minutes. We did replay lessons more than once. I really think that being able to practice and review is vital.

Here is a common lesson (this is from lesson 1). 

This guide is found at the beginning of Unit 1 (Lesson 1). It is a vocabulary guide that can also be printed off. We didn't print it off. I think the beauty of the guide is that you can click on the green audio button and hear the pronunciation. 

The Intro identifies the lessons objectives.

The Warm-up allows the student to click on the audio button and listen to the pronunciation. By clicking on word itself a gray box will pop up with the English word.

This is interactive activity. I really liked this one because it allowed Josiah to do it as often as he needed to. 

There is also a Reading/Listening Lab. We don't have an option to record so basically I was Josiah's Listening Lab. 

My Thoughts

This is an easy program to use. There is little prep. We did move slower through the program than most. One of my concerns is that we wouldn’t be able to complete the course in a semester.

Overall, it is an excellent program. During the course of the lessons the student is encouraged to take their newly found skills out into the community. There are also plenty of culture education that goes beyond vowels and pronunciation. 

I have a special place in my heart for Latin culture and countries. I was born to Missionary parents in Nicaragua. I think it is vital that we learn to love other cultures and explore and learn. I am thankful that Middlebury Interactive provides us a great way to do it from home. 

You can connect with Middlebury Interactive via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner for more reviews. 

 Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Curse of the Apple Pancakes: A Weight Loss Journal

It's been a pretty good week. 

I did fall off the wagon today, however.

Yesterday I made Josiah the most scrumptious apple pancakes. They smelled divine. 

He acted like I had just clipped his toenails and added them to his favorite batter. 

You would think I would have learned by now. He loves my pancake recipe so add anything to it is to defile it. 

What he does not know is that I have been adding stuff for years to his precious pancakes. 


This time, however, I felt like we could all be grown-ups and left the apples a little chunky. 

Anyhoo. Let's just say that there were a lot of pancakes left over. I gave into temptation this afternoon when my blood sugar bottomed out. 


Today I want to talk about something that I have started doing that I used to be soo faithful at. 

Writing down what I eat. 

I stopped because I was comfortable with my calorie intact/general healthiness of my meals. I have gotten away from it and I realized I needed to be accountable again.

What helped me quite a bit when I was in my weight loss desert (when I was struggling to lose anything and stay on track) was looking to see what people were successful at losing weight were eating. 

Let's be clear about this. 

All of us have different issues. I am extremely sensitive to certain foods (for example, apple pancakes make with white flour). I also have certain nutrition philosophies. 

But...I think that I need to be accountable to someone and you, my friends, are about the best somebodies I can think of. 

So. Starting next week I am going to start sharing not only what I am eating, but my exercise endeavors. I know first hand how it is to think, "I'm really not eating that poorly." Then. You start remembering the bite of the cake and the handful of peanuts and the extra sugar in your coffee. 

Also...please be in prayer with me about something. I have been long under the conclusion that my synthetic thyroid medication isn't working the magic I need it to. There have been some obvious symptoms that can't be ignored (as much as I am capable of that). I have a call out to my doctor's office to set up an appointment. 

I am praying that she will be open to other avenues of treatment for me and that I will find some relief. 

Thank you, my friends. Hope you have a wonderfully healthy week! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Homemade Pudding (One Quart)

It's Fall Y'all. 

By the way. I never say Y'all. 

I imagine it is because my parents never used it. Even though they both were born in the sticks of Southwest Missouri. I, myself, have only spent a few years out of the hills (only to return again). 

I did just a little research and found this article on Branson slang. My momma was born in Branson. I thought it was interesting that the author was right on the money about "You All" and Southwest Missouri Hillbillies. Some of the other vernacular I was unfamiliar with. 

Don't get me wrong. I had the "hickiest" accent as a child. It still can creep up on me when I'm not looking. 

This post, of course, has nothing to do with my accent...

I am going to share with you an old family recipe. 

This was the one that Mom fixed on those chilly evenings when we all were looking for something sweet and comforting...and fast. 

I didn't know what instant pudding looked like until I was a teenager. 

Lately, I have been fixing this recipe more often.  It is yummy and so, so easy. 

Years ago, Mom and I made a little cookbook. She did all the hard work. She actually hand illustrated all of the recipe pages. 

It's quite charming. This is the page for the One Quart Pudding. 

This recipe doesn't require a lot of ingredients. It does call for a quart of milk, but you can make that up in any combination you wish. I have used almond milk, coconut milk, canned milk, heavy whipping cream (yummers) and just plain skim milk. I have to stay away from a lot of dairy so I use a combination of almond milk, coconut milk and whipping cream.

I also use sweetener in place of the sugar. I am diabetic and am also careful with what I eat for  weight loss purposes. Sugar is not a superfood!

This is a microwave friendly dish and it takes just minutes to make. This is a terrible picture. You can almost see how it is thickening up.

And turns out just creamy and wonderful. I did sprinkle a bit of nutmeg on my serving here.

Here is the recipe.

In a large microwavable bowl combine the following;  

1 quart of milk
2/3 cup of sugar
1 egg, well blended
4 TBSP cornstarch
dash of salt

Put in the microwave. Cook six minutes. Take out and stir with a whisk. Cook another three minutes. Take it out and stir. It should come up to a boil and thicken. Stir and then add:

3 TBSP of butter
1 tsp. of vanilla

Just a note: I think it would be yummy with a little lemon for a fresher tasting pudding. The vanilla is really versatile. I know my Mom used to make different flavors when we were growing up. Josiah loves the vanilla and that is what I make. 

This recipe is just an old-fashioned dish of wonderfulness. Perfect for cool evenings. I think I might go make a batch.  

A TOS Review: USAopoly

We love games here at our house. I have found that my busy guy seems to absorb so much more when there is fun involved. Recently we had the chance to review the funest (I know…not a word) games evah! USAopoly sent us two of their games for review, Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game and Tapple:Fast Word Fun for Everyone.

Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game is all about strategy. The game comes with 54 cards, 9 blocks and a fun storage bag to keep it all in. This game requires the players to build. Here is how it’s played.

Each player receives a certain amount of cards. Each card tells them what color and size of block they are able to play. These blocks aren’t ordinary, plain jane blocks. They are literally “wonky.” This, of course, requires the players to think about how he or she is placing his or her block.

This was sooo much fun! Warning. It is really easy for this tower to fall.

The “Duct Tape Strategy” was thrown in there for a possible solution. 

Wonky  is intended for ages 8+ and can be played with 2 or more players. 

Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone has quickly become Josiah’s favorite game. You might be aware that Josiah is dyslexic. I worried just a bit. How would that translate to this game?

He is frankly awesome.

The game revolves around this wheel with letters and a built-in timer. There are also 36 cards containing 144 categories. One side is harder. The other easier. You will need 2 AA batteries to run the timer for this one.

The player draws a category from the card he or she has drawn. Then the player taps the timer button and says a word beginning with one of the letters placed around the wheel. The game overlooks the letters Q,U,V,X,Y & Z. This was helpful. Nothing like trying to think of a fruit that begins with the letter Z.

The game continues as each player takes his or her turn. The timer only allows 10 seconds before that turn is lost. If you fail to think of a word you are out of the round.

Tapple is intended for ages 8+ and can be played with 2 to 8 players. 

How We Played

We played both games on our own and then took them to our Reading Club to share with our friends.  
 They were both instant hits.

The cute bag that comes with Wonky makes this game easy to cart off to picnics and Grandma's house. I shouldn't think that this would be a good travel game. You really have to have a flat, steady surface. 

You can tell from this picture that some of the sides of the blocks and angled and curved.

We did play it with a player who was younger than 8. She had a good time, but cared little for strategy. She just basically went with whatever color she was "feeling" at the time. 

Tapple turned out to be an educational goldmine. Who knew that such a simple game would help this dyslexic child find his superpower? He might struggle with reading big passages, but he sure could pull a word out of thin air! 

The ages in our Reading Club range from 4-13 (unless you count the mommas and then you are walking in 40land). The youngest ones needed a little more help, but they were all about it.

There is something about pushing that red button and beating the timer. It's magical!

We had quite a good time with all of the topics. Josiah's favorite has been Athletes.

Imagine that.

One of my favorite things about Tapple is the possibilities. You can literally take any educational topic (We are studying The Civil War right now) and make it into a category for Tapple. 

Both games are cleverly crafted and created. They are also well-made. We didn't have any issue with all the moving parts. The blocks for Wonky are wooden. Thankfully, we are beyond the "throwing blocks" stage.

 At least I hope so. 

But in any event, there aren't tiny pieces to keep track of. The Tapple wheel even has a handy cubby to keep the cards in. 

We LOVED these games. Can you tell? 

Connect with USAopoly via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 

 USAopoly Review
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...