Sunday, November 19, 2017

Still Complaining and A FREE Doodle (Christmas Choir)

This post contains affiliate links...using affiliate links from There Will Be a $5 Charge for Whining helps support this blog, our homeschool and my book addiction. Thank You! 

Hello, my friends.

It's cold here in Indiana today. Not that I've been out of the house in almost a week.

I take that back. I did go to the doctor, but that barely counts, right?

I got up this morning with every intention of going to church. I got as far as making a pot of coffee, feeding the cat and fussing at Josiah to get himself out of bed.

Too much for me! I do feel better in some respects, but the thought of even putting mascara on (let alone going to church) was exhausting. You know you have been sick when you readily agree that the Orange Crush your son has been guzzling down can be counted as a fruit.

I am really, really looking forward to Christmas this year. I've been making plans. Some of those plans sound exhausting to me right now, but I know that eventually I will need those plans.

Written in sparkly pen and highlighted with jeweled stickers. That's just the way I roll.

Something I have learned throughout my years of chronic illness, etc. is that a girl really needs to have an arsenal of things that feed a creative outlet, help relieve stress and takes appreciation of those little moments. After all, those little moments are all some of us are guaranteed.

A few years ago, my momma began creating adorable zendoodles (also known as zentangles) for her people at the Nursing Home. She is getting ready to retire towards the end of December, but for the past several years she has worked in the recreational department of a nursing home in Joplin, MO. She plays music a couple of times a week, teaches art classes and a variety of other handicrafts.

A big change for her years as a Respiratory Therapist, but Momma did go to art school...so I guess it wasn't that much of a stretch.

Well, the zendoodles were a big hit. We even had a little online store for a bit. I've shared a few here on my blog. And today, I have another one for you.


Isn't this little Christmas Choir the sweetest? I think it would be adorable as a print to frame or as even a gift to give.

All you need to do is click on THIS LINK (or the picture) and you will be directed to Google Drive. There you can download a PDF of the print.

The finished copy will not have the SassyFrass watermark on it...so don't worry about that.

My favorite materials to use for coloring are a couple of things.

First, everyone must have a set of Prismacolor Coloring Pencils. They are truly beautiful and so great to use.





You can use a set of Dollar Store colored pencils, but I think that once you try these you won't ever feel the same way about colored pencils again.

There is also a bigger set (72 pencils) for some of you more ambitious coloring hobbyists. This set has a pencil sharpener (which is a necessity) included.




I don't like to use markers for these projects...they bleed through and are too heavy. Instead I opt for Gel Pens. I LOVE a good Gel Pen. They make me happy.

One of my favorite brands of gel pens are these from Sakura. They are called the Gelly Roll pens. the set you see here is the metallics. I adore anything shy and glittery and these are so smooth to use.




I also any of these pens and pencils would make a terrific gift or stocking stuffers for your Bible Journaling friends or budding artists. I know I would be thrilled to find any of these in my stocking (hint, hint).

So that's it. I hope you enjoy the sweet little Christmas Choir girls. You can find a few more Zendoodles underneath my Free Printables tab.











Thursday, November 16, 2017

Writing with Sharon Watson: Characters in Crisis (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)

So here it is. The last review for the Homeschool Review Crew for 2017. And I’ve got a good one for you.
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

Sometime back I had a chance to use a product from Writing with Sharon Watson. I’ve had the opportunity to use a good number of writing curriculums and I have to say that anything I’ve seen from Sharon Watson ranks right up there. This time around I got to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis.

Before I talk about what I received you need to check out this great resource of free sample chapters, Teacher guide samples, quizzes, and grading grids and more!

Got to love those samples!

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis by Writing with Sharon Watson is intended for students 9-12 grade. It is written from a Christian perspective and can be used for two semesters to earn one credit. The 38 lessons are student-directed and use complete novels and stories.
I received the following products:

Teacher’s Guide
Student Textbook
Quiz and Answer Manual
And a Novel Notebook pdf download…which is FREE!

You will need to obtain the books used in the study yourself, but Sharon provides links for easy purchase on the website. I happened to have several of the books except for some of the short stories.

Let me talk a little about each part of the curriculum.

The Teacher’s Guide contains a monthly lesson plan, grading grids, and answers to all the lessons, quizzes etc. that are found in the Student Textbook. Yay! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to think too hard when reviewing an assignment with my son. As I tell my son. I already had several literature courses in college. I’ve proved myself. Now I just read for fun.  For those of you who are a bit more ambitious there is even a plan for setting up a reading club (book-of-the-month club) for your students.

The Student Textbook contains everything the student will need (except the book) to enjoy literature. As I mentioned, the student will read the entire book…not just a passage here and there…which happens to be a pet peeve of mine. Let them read the whole thing! Sharon also includes in-depth author bios (I personally loved reading the one about Mary Shelley), interesting facts and background information to give the student more insight.

The curriculum will appeal to reluctant readers, as well as those of us who are bookaholics (yes, this is a term).  One of the things I appreciated about the textbook is that Sharon walked the student through each chapter. I really dislike literature programs that are open-ended. Sometimes it’s hard to interpret an author’s intent…and can you please give me that example of “foreshadowing” you keep talking about? Anybody with a reluctant reader will agree with me.
After completing each section in the textbook, the student will be prompted to go take a quiz.


Now there are two ways you can quiz your student. There is a hardcopy version of the Answer and Quiz Manual or there is an Online option. If your student enjoys the online quiz there is a code found in the Teacher’s Book for access. Personally, I think this is a fabulous option. We seem to be doing more and more of our schooling online as of late. It’s just so handy.

The Novel Notebook is a free download. It contains 86 pages that can either be printed off or saved to the computer using the add text option that comes with a PDF. This is a journaling notebook that contains questions and extra activities. I do have to say that what I appreciated most about going through this was Sharon’s laid back and gentle attitude in studying literature. For example, she encouraged students not to answer ALL of the questions provided in the section for Frankenstein. In fact, she said “We don’t want to beat the novel to death.”

This has always been my beef with many literature programs. Let’s not kill a student’s love for literature by trying to get too complicated. Sometimes it’s not that deep.

The literature list is as follows. We are encouraged to use a particular edition of the books as helpful page numbers are given throughout the course. I always use an audio book in addition to the hard copy so I've had to make sure everything matches up. 


A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell, (included in the textbook)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
An Assortment of Short Stories (included in the textbook)
A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett
The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges
Haircut by Ring Lardner
The Lady, or the Tiger? by Frank Stockton
Of the Passing of the First-Born by W. E. B. Du Bois
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Biography or autobiography of student’s choice
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Mariner Books version)

What I Thought

My concern with any curriculum is always will it be appropriate for my dyslexic son. The truth is that obviously a literature program will be a bit more challenge to navigate. There is an awful amount of reading involved.  I have noticed that peppered in the usual discussion questions are some helps. For example, in the Frankenstein unit the students are taught how to make notes in the book itself. This is called annotating and something I encourage Josiah to do in all his reading.

I also love the variety of activities given to enhance each unit. For example, after reading the short story A Jury of Her Peers, students can participate in a mock trial, learn to can, create a sewing stitch, write a procedure and more.

Overall, I think these kinds of experiences only make to bring the story and the experience to life. I love it!

I think you’ll be impressed with Characters in Crisis. Be sure to check out those free samples!

You can connect with Writing with Sharon Watson via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner to read more reviews !

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/WritingWithSharonWatson
Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/writingwithshar

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Beke Gets Frank

I’ve been sick.

Again.

I currently have the worst cold of my life. I’ve been sick for 5 days.

5 days, my friends.

I’ve had enough snot come out of my head to fuel a large battleship. Not that snot is considered a viable fuel source.

I also have more on my “to-do” list than is decent. Right now, The Muffin and Josiah are off picking up things like toilet paper and cat food. I usually do the shopping runs and I think The Muffin was waiting it out until I felt better.

Things changed when we ran out of toilet paper.

All this time in bed has allowed me to do a few things. I’ve gotten several more history lessons ready for the curriculum I’m writing. However, I am sure there will be some intense editing than needs to be done after all the snot clears. I’ve already caught myself rambling about the plight of the Chinese peasant at the turn of the 20th century.

I also want to be well before we leave to spend Thanksgiving with family. I absolutely hate being sick on holidays.

Today there is something else I want to talk about.

Something happens to me when I get really sick. I become a little less patient with nonsense.

Even if you know me in real life, you might not know this about me.

I can be REALLY frank.

You might not know this about me because for the majority of the time I try to keep it zipped up. After all, I don’t have to express my opinions all the time.



But I probably have an opinion and it might not be one you share. And I’m not about to argue with someone who just likes to argue.

I simply. Do. Not. Care. 

The people pleaser in me would rather just keeps things mellow. After all, I don’t know everything. I am not right about everything. And neither do I have to prove my ‘rightness’ to anyone. I frankly don’t have the need to justify or explain myself.

I also don’t need to be preaching at you. You’re grown. Just be prepared to face the consequences of the nonsense you spout out on Facebook.

But here are a few things I need to just get off my chest. I am at that stage in my life when it's just better to be frank when times call for it.  And as I can't walk around handing out my manifesto to everyone on the street (that would be just weird) you, my friends, are about to get the whole shebang. 

1.       It’s not about you. Really. Most things you get offended about have nothing to do with what you need to be worrying about. You have bigger fish to fry. 

2.       You probably don’t know about half the stuff you think you know. Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true. Be a student of history. Don’t be hasty to build worldview around someone else’s opinions. Read and study. Think before you spout. There is ALWAYS more to the story.

3.       Watch that potty mouth. Really.  People will listen when your words are peppered with conviction, substance and intelligence...no matter what the subject matter. Using foul language changes the whole conversation. If you want to use foul language around me...take you and your conversation elsewhere. I mean that in love 😘

4.       Walk in someone else’s shoes. We all tend to make snap judgments that have nothing to do with reality. All Republicans are bigots. All Democrats are arrogant and shifty. I am no more defined by my preference in the voting box than you are. Give it up already.

5.       Take responsibility. Even if you think you got the short end of the stick. Cut the excuses. We have to stop whining about those hard things in life. I’m preaching to myself here. Just do the thing.

6.       Tell yourself the truth. Don’t try and rewrite the past. What’s done is done. People will disappoint you. Don’t try and make them something they aren’t. Make peace with your life and with those in your world right now.

7.       Take care. What you do today will come back to bite you in the butt (sorry, Mom). It is what it is. You can’t expect to abuse your body and allow bitterness to fester in your heart without it eventually manifesting in your life. Find another way to deal with the stress.

8.       Give yourself a break. Most of you are owning it. You are taking each day as it comes. You are trying to love those around you and doing your best to make something beautiful out of your life. Don’t look to the left or to the right. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Take a nap. Take two naps. It’s time to be who God intended you to be. 

9.       Set your priorities. What things are you willing to die on a hill for? For me it comes down to a few things. Don’t mess with those who can’t protect themselves. I don’t care whose choice it is…I care about the unborn, children, and the elderly. Don’t mess with my son and my husband. They are precious to me. Don’t talk about women’s body parts and make suggestive comments. Gross. If you don’t believe in God and think Christianity is a crock that is your business. I doubt I will be able to convince you otherwise. But don’t expect me to be impressed by your bigoted attitudes and uninformed opinions. My brand of Christianity has nothing to do with your preconceived notions and ideas. I am a follower of Christ…not just a follower of rules. I love you...I really do. But loving you doesn't mean I have to agree with you. And I'm okay with that. 


10.   Just be nice. I have probably offended someone today. Being offended seems to be quite the thing right now. I hope it’s a fad. Like parachute pants and mini corn dogs. Pull up those big girl panties and get on with things. Times a’wasting. 




Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thinking Like an Engineer (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)

Do you have a kiddo who loves to know how things work? I have been looking over a program lately that I am considering using for an elective for my teenage son. It’s called Thinking Like an Engineer, from Innovator’s Tribe.

Thinking Like an Engineer

For the purpose of our review, I received a 2-year subscription of this online course. Innovator’s Tribe offer three different courses. They are Thinking Like an Architect, Thinking Like a Carpenter, and Thinking Like an Engineer.

Innovators Tribe What You Get
Thinking Like an Engineer is a self-paced course. It can be used with grades 6-12. It can be used with multiple children in a household. The lessons are easily accessed and include several hands-on activities. There are design challenges, building challenges and an exercise journal. There are no grades with this program…the journal helps keep the student accountable.

You can, of course, use this right alongside your student or point them towards the computer and let them go!

It can be used with a MAC or Windows. We have a PC with Windows 10 and use Google Chrome as our browser. All we needed was a Flash Plug-In (which are free) and a set of speakers.

In addition to the awesome lessons and interactive lessons, there is a FREE download of the design software. This is yours even after the course period has expired.  For High School students who want to use Thinking Like an Engineer as a credit, it counts for ¼ of a credit.

The Units for the course are:

Introduction to Engineering
Introduction to 3D Design (tools of modern design)
Engineering Rollercoasters!
Engineering Bridges
Nano Engineering (Discovery of a New World)
Thinking Like an Engineer - Course Conclusion

The course also comes with a syllabus so you can see firsthand is expected and what you will need for the duration.

So you know I like to show you what we see when we log on to our Innovator’s Tribe account.


For this review, I am going to share with you Lesson 2 from the Introduction to Engineering unit. 

First of all, I am showing you a portion of the sidebar that let's you move within the course and check on your student's progress. I love that each portion is given a time of completion. For some reason, I didn't get the shot of the little green checkmarks that show up when you've completed a part of each lesson. 


With each Unit there is a Unit Journal.


It is a printable PDF that let's your student reflect what he or she has learned with each lesson.
This lesson starts with a bit of introduction then a group of slides that the student clicks on once that slide is read. Obviously, this lesson is on the carrier of Engineering. 
 This lesson gives examples of different kinds of engineers, what they do AND their average pay grade.
 This slide didn't help me a bit. I have been trying to tell Josiah that his current career path of playing video games for a living just won't cut it. The Gaming Engineers don't earn as much as the Nuclear Engineers, but....
 For an activity this lesson has the student do a little personal research on the internet about other possible engineering careers.
 The link takes you to a printable that lines out all the instructions for that activity.
 Each lesson also has a hands-on Challenge Assignment. For this lesson, the student has to balance as many books as he or she can on a single piece of paper.
 There are specific instructions and guidelines with this one. We did have to cheat and look up some examples of other people doing this challenge.
All of the lessons follow pretty much the same formula...with varying degrees of difficulty. There is a roller coaster building challenge that Josiah is looking forward to. It is a paper roller coaster (with templates) that takes 5-6 hours! Josiah has already created interesting structures out of anything he can find. He's decides that while designing a roller coaster sounds like fun, he certainly doesn't want to ride one!

I'm with him on that! 

This is an awesome program. It is innovate, creative and perfect for those curious kids. I will say that because Josiah is dyslexic I had to participate more than I anticipated. It is relatively easy to navigate, but sometimes Josiah gets confused if there are too many steps or things to look at. He also would prefer an audio option for the reading, but I didn't think it was that bad. The reading is one slide at a time. 

The lessons are long enough to keep a teenagers attention and short enough  to keep a teenagers attention...if you know what I mean. The subject matter is interesting and the presentation is top-notch.  

This one is a win! 

Members of the Crew also reviewed Thinking Like an Architect. I can't wait to see what they thought...and I'm looking forward to getting a good look at Thinking Like an Carpenter. We have more experience with carpenters in our life so that one sounds like a fun one.

 Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Giveaways!

Hi friends!

Hope this little post finds you all happy and spry. I'm a little lacking in the "spry" department, but I'll take happy any day. Indiana has been having difficulty deciding what season she wants to enjoy so my poor metallic bones are suffering.

But I have a cat snuggled beside me, a good book and a cup of coffee with lots of cream. What more could a girl ask for?

So can you believe this is November? My baby boy will be turning 16 in 20 days.

I. Can't.

I just can't.

He did tell his Dad this week that he didn't feel like he was ready to drive. We did explain that one wasn't just tossed into the front seat of a vehicle on their 16th birthday. I think he expects to wake up magically on his birthday knowing how to drive.

If only.

But enough about that. Right now. This very minute. I have THREE (3) giveaways on my blog right now. The last couple of vendors I have reviewed for have been very generous!!!

So this is what I have.

Safety Scissors and Pencils Grips - This giveaway is for a set of Safety Scissors and a training kit of Pencil Grips from The Pencil Grip, Inc. This would be good for kiddos who are learning to write or those who struggle with their handwriting. The Safety Scissors are actually sharper scissors with a guard on them...their cut is far superior than the little kiddy scissors.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack (Tempera paint sticks) - The Pencil Grip, Inc. is also letting me giveaway a set of 24 tempera paint sticks. These are awesome. I have a whole bunch in my stash. You don't have to have little people to enjoy them, but they are a great addition to any art supply box. They also would make a great Christmas gift.

The Magic Stories - This is a downloadable product. It is a reading program that uses simple stories to teach comprehension, writing, etc. The ages for this one is 2nd or 3rd grade, but if you have a veracious reader or a struggling reader it would be appropriate.

Make sure you go check them out and enter for the giveaways!

In the meantime...grab yourself a good book and a cat.


Tempera Paint Pens from The Pencil Grip, Inc. AND a Giveaway!

One of my favorite products I've reviewed through the years isn't necessarily just for homeschoolers. Ya'll know I love me some art supplies. And I mean LOVE. Nothing brings on the warm fuzzies like a some quality colored pencils, a cute stamp and a pack of the product I'm about to share with you today. I'm talking about the Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Oh, yes. I will share links to my earlier reviews in a bit, but for now let's just bask in the loveliness that is the Thin Stix Creativity Pack. 24 little paint lovelies. 

Before I show you how I played with them, you need to know all the Kwik Stix particulars. These are solid tempera paint sticks. They are virtually mess free (unless you have a kiddo who likes to eat their markers...then you might have a mess). You don't need water. You don't need paint brushes. You don't need paint smocks. 

I was an early childhood teacher (including kindergarten) for years. I know the messy mayhem that is art class. I also know that those littles need to creative and explore! 

My first experience with a Kwik Stix was when some little friends came over and we decorated our own wrapping paper for Christmas. Since then, The Pencil Grip has come out with these Thin Stix.

The Thin Stix Creativity Pack has 12 classic colors, 6 neon colors and 6 Metalix colors.


The classic colors have a little bit of everything you might need. I love that the white shows up on darker colored paper and brown craft paper. 

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

The Metalix colors are my favorite. I love the way they shine and shimmer. They make me happy. 
Thin Stix Creativity Pack

I think the neon colors are perfect for bright posters. These are usually the ones Josiah grabs. He's a neon kind of guy. 
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Let me show a couple of projects.

I have used Kwik Stix on wood before, so when I saw these adorable little fall wood ornaments, I knew that our new Thin Stix set would be perfect to use on them.
 


 You can't tell as well from the picture, but the blue, purple and green colors on the Miss Owl are from the Metalix set. I honestly can't get enough of the Metalix. So shimmery!


This next little picture is from a doodle I drew from something I saw on Pinterest. We still have less than 2 months before the big day, but I have been piddling around with Christmas designs and possible gift tag ideas.

This little word art project was simple, bimple using the Thin Stix. You can see that the black isn't quite as dark and filled in as it would be using a permanent marker, but I think it has a charming hand-colored effect.

While the Thin Stix are thinner than their original Kwik Stix cousins, they aren't quite fine enough for really detailed projects. They don't, for example, do a good job with my adult coloring pages. 

However, they are perfect for the simpler coloring pages that have more open space. Which is exactly what you would need to use with littler folk. 

We have used them for poster projects, on canvas, on craft frames and much, much more. They are silky smooth to use and take only 90 seconds to dry. That way we can get right along with our crafting. 

I can think of a million and one places these little beauties could be used. For starters, they would be a great gift for a stocking. Sunday School classes, preschools, home art cabinets, Grandma's house...they list goes on! 

The intended age for this product is 3 and up, but if you have an ambitious and capable 2-year-old I think he or she would be perfectly fine. When Josiah was that age he would have loved these. He didn't like to have messy hands (still doesn't!). 

As I mentioned, I have done several reviews for The Pencil Grip, Inc. If you have the time, you can see what I've done in the past and what I've thought. 

Safety Scissors and Pencil Grips (check out the giveaway on this one!)
Thin Stix (Classic Colors)
Kwik Stix (Neon and Metalix)
Kwik Stix (Classic Colors)

You can see that I have quite the collection now. If I were to chose a favorite, I would have to say that I adore the Thin Stix Metalix colors I got this time. 

In any event...they are all winners. 

For now, my sweet friends, The Pencil Grip, Inc. has been generous. They are giving away one set of the Thin Stix Creativity Pack to one of you! All you need to do is comment below and tell me what your plans are for Thanksgiving dinner. We will chose the winner at random! 

You can connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thepencilgrip/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/thepencilgrip @thepencilgrip
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/thepencilgrip/

Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Updates (Life and Such)

I know.

I completely BOMBED the 30 Days Free Writing Challenge.

I really need to think these things through. Perhaps I can try another one.

When I don't have so many things on my plate. When I don't get some kind of yucky virus. When I am not going through some sort of mini-health crisis.

Anyhoo. One would think I could have carved out at least 5 minutes a day to do this.

On to new things.

Life is been really busy right now.

AND I've had a few health hiccups. Nothing so serious. But some things I really have to pay attention to. Mostly I have started cardiac rehab...which has been kicking my fanny 4 days a week at 7:30 in the morning. I'm hoping this will increase my endurance and help me lose this weight I've gained since we've moved here (plus...some more :<).

I think a component to my lack of success and health goals since moving has been my total lack of accountability. It's hard for me to talk about the failures, my friends.

I am also doing some freelance curriculum writing. Which means most evenings are spent researching and pounding out engaging (hopefully) and historically accurate (hopefully) lessons. This is quite an undertaking, folks. I'm surprised my brain isn't mostly mush.

Tonight, The Studly Muffin and I are watching Christmas movies on Hallmark. Yes, we are! Don't hate. It makes the Muffin happy. Any minute the boy is going to come in here wanting to watch some sort of football game. I'm taking advantage of the Christmas sparkle for now.

Can you believe it is November?

Sheesh.

Before I leave you, I want to share a couple of links with you. I have been writing monthly for The Old Schoolhouse blog (Homeschooling with Heart).

You can read October's post here. 

And here my offering for November. Just a note: If you click on November's post before November 3 it will give you an error code. It is scheduled to go live on November 3.

Blessings, my friends.


The Magic Stories (A Homeschool Review Crew Post) and Giveaway!

Do you have a struggling reader or a kiddo who is 2nd or 3rd grade? I’ve just been reviewing the neatest product called The Magic Stories. This set of 6 stories comes from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series. (Stay-tuned...I have a Giveaway at the end of this post!)

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

Now must of you know that my son is nearly 16. He does not fall in the recommended grade level whatsoever. That being said, it is not out the realm of possibility that I could use this product for him. He is also dyslexic and one of the methods that I have found that words for him is constant review. Those of you who are teaching or parenting one of these learners understand that we might think we have mastered a skill one day, but the next day it was like they have never heard it before. I will say that our journey has gotten much easier over the years. I believe the results we've seen are because we've had constant review, out of the box methods and consistency.

For the rest of you who don't have a struggling learner, I am also looking at this product as a former elementary classroom teacher. I've taught many a kiddo to read my in my day.

For my review, I received a PDF download of the 6 Magic stories, the Naughty 40 flashcards, and the exercise books.  They are available for purchase as a set or individually. I believe they are priced very reasonably, so you might check that out.


The stories are intended to be a follow-up to The Reading Game, but I think as long as your student has the ability to read simple sight words and understands familiar phonetic patterns they will be just fine. The stories are moral tales that use a series of words that don’t fit the spelling rules or are more difficult to learn. These words are called the Naughty Forty. In addition, there are a set of exercises with each story that help the student master these words.

The stories DO need to be read and used in order. There is Parent/Teacher Guide on the website that explains more of the methodology and usage.  This program is entirely paced to your needs so you can use it in a variety of ways. I do have some suggestions, which I will talk about as we go on.

The Naughty 40 all come as cards that need to be printed off. This is the Naughty 40 list for the very first story, The Magic Hole.


The goal is to test the student with the Naughty 40 words prior to reading the story. My preference would be to go through these cards daily with my student/students. I certainly would either print them off on cardstock and/or laminate them. I don't know what I would have done without my laminator all these years.

I love, love the assessments can come included. You can see that this assessment has a spot for "pre" reading the book and "post" reading.  You will also notice the criteria. The student needs to recognize the word, be able to read it in a sentence and understand its meaning. I like that! Many programs stop at "recognizing the word." It also gives you a goal. If your student has difficulty with a word or two you could use tack the offending word up all around the house.


The stories themselves are engaging and the entire booklet (with the Naughty 40 list included) runs about 20 pages. You can print them off or use an tablet or computer to view them. If I had a younger one I would personally print them off so they would be easily accessible. I also would read the book daily. For those of you who have kiddos with dyslexia I like that there is plenty of white space on the page. The illustrations aren't found on every page, but the words are large and easier to follow.


The following page is also another wonderful resource. This assessment takes a portion (100 words) from the reading and helps you test the student's accuracy. A helpful scoring system tells you how proficient the student is reading and if he or she needs further review.


Each book comes with 4 exercises (not including the assessments). They are Maze, Finish the sentence, Imagine and Finish the Story. They cover they assist in teaching a variety of language art skills. These include comprehension, creative writing and more. I'm going to show you a few samples.

This Exercise instructs the student to finish the sentence in his or her own words. I have found that some students have difficulty in not completing a sentence without copying the story word for word. This is an excellent exercise to encourage summarizing and comprehension.

 This Exercise encourages the student to use his or her imagination. What happens next? Of course, there will be students who have a harder time with this exercise, but I know several of you have a child who could write a whole new story today! Such fun!


If I were teaching a younger student, I would have her complete one Exercise daily.

Because I love using literature in almost every aspect of our schooling, I think this is a fantastic product. I think it is reasonably priced and something you can even use to review time and time again. We often use materials we used ages ago when Josiah was much younger for review. This is also a great product for those of you with multiple students.

For now, I have something fun! The author is graciously giving away one of you a FREE download of The Magic Stories! All I need is for you to comment below. Tell me what your favorite book is! I will let the Giveaway go for about a week and then announce a winner.

Go check it out!

You can connect with The Magic Stories via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews.


The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracts (A Homeschool Review Crew Post)

Most of us have had an experience of some sort with a Gospel Tract. In fact, there is one that looks like a piece of currency floating around in my husband’s wallet. I get excited every time I get a little glimpse of it until I remember it is not, in fact, a million dollar bill. Not that I go through my husband’s wallet all that much…I do need to make that clear. Someone gave it to him years ago and he still keeps it in his wallet. Anyhoo. I do think that Gospel Tracts have their places, but many of them often leave me disappointed in the method of delivery. I think we can show more of Jesus with our lives than with a piece of paper. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with the offering of Gospel Tracts I just received from Let the Little Children Come. Read on for my review of the Gospel Tracts and EvangelismTools Sampler Pack.

 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks



 I need to tell you that years ago we were full-time children’s pastors.  We have high expectations for tools used for ministry to kids. We are now senior pastors and our expectations haven’t waned any. We think they need to be engaging, well-made and, most importantly, convey a clear and positive redemptive message.

The tracts and puzzles from Let the Little Children Come meet all of our criteria.

Here is what came in our sample pack.


  • John 3:16 Animated Tract
  • Gospel Buttons FlipAbout
  • The Most Amazing House Pop-up Tract
  • Wordless Bracelet Kit
  • The True Story of Christmas Animated Tract
  • The Lost Easter Egg Pop-up Tract
  • John 3:16 FlipAbout
  • Silicone Salvation Bracelet
  • Where’s Everybody Going? Animated Tract
  • Wordless Book

You can see that while there are several Tracts to choose from, each tract falls into one of three styles.



 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks
The first style I want to talk about are the Animated Tracts. Each little tract comes with a striped piece of plastic over the picture. As you move the piece of plastic over the picture the scene comes to life. They are engaging and super creative. I love those little animated flip books and this Animated Tract takes that to the next level.



 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks
The Pop Up Tract is basically a mini-pop up book. I LOVE Pop Up books and we have even enjoyed making them ourselves. The books are short in length (only 5 pages and under), but gets to the point right away.

 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks
The third style of tract is the FlipAbouts. It is a paneled book that needs to opened with different twists and turns to make the message appear. It can be a challenge for the littles to figure out, but I can see a little bit older kids having a blast with this one.

 Let the Little Children Come Gospel Tracks
I also received a couple of evangelism tools. The Silicone Salvation Bracelet is fantastic. It does come with a piece of paper explaining the meaning of each color. This would be fantastic to include in stockings this year. I think it encourages kids to talk about their faith.

The Worldless Bracelet Kit contains 5 colored beads that represent the Salvation message (just as the Salvation Bracelet). However, this is basically a little craft kit so you can use this as an activity for a class or group of kiddos.

The Wordless Book also uses the 5 colors to help kids talk about their faith. There are no words (obviously), but each color points to Christ and helps kids express that.

I think there are so many possibilities for each product. The Tracts are excellent to stick in visitor packs, handout at outreach events or even bake sales. We have a food pantry and a free community meal every week and I think we are going to get a variety to stick in food pantry boxes or handout to kids at the community meal. There is enough of a “play” element to each of them…they will certainly keep a body occupied (and encouraged ;<). In fact, the seasonal tracts for Christmas and Easter are going to go on our list this next year for purchase. 

The bracelets and Wordless books would be terrific to handout in your children’s church or Sunday school classes. I think it’s important for kids to learn to how to talk about their faith. You could even incorporate them into part of your salvation messages. I also think they would be great to give in stockings.

There are so many possibilities! And Let the Little Children Come produces quality products. We just used the Halloween Tracts at church. Not only did they look adorable, but they were well-made and the message was clear and creative. You can read my review for that product here.

I think you will be impressed with all of their products! They do good work.

You can connect with Let the Little Children Come via the following social media outlets. Don’t forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 

Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools {Let the Little Children Come Reviews}

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sex by Design (Abby Ludvigson) A Homeschool Review Crew Post

One can’t be the parent of a teenager in today’s world and not worry about all the influences that seem to bombard our kiddos from every direction. It’s been especially difficult to navigate the murky waters and advice concerning sexual intimacy and relationships. We recently had the opportunity to review Sex by Design from Abby LudvigsonAbby Ludvigson Sex by Design

This series is a combination of a couple of things. It comes with a companion guidebook for the teen and one for the parent. The main teaching comes from a seven part video series. In addition, a helpful website with articles, book recommendations and resources to print off is available. 

It is divided into the following parts.

1) Plan Ahead: Living Pure in a Sex-saturated Culture
2) Counting the Cost: Every Decision has a price tag
3) Dating: Doing Relationships God's Way
4) Sex: God's Purpose and Plan
5) Modesty: God Cares What I Wear
6) Pornography: Its deception and Steps to Get Out or Stay Out
7) Secondary Virginity: Running Back to God

The videos are approximately 25 minutes long. They include testimonies and comments from teens and professionals with the bulk of the video being a teaching from Abby. She is addressing a group of teens from inner city kids from St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Guidebook contains a script from the videos, a film outline and a set of follow-up discussion questions. The parent Guidebook also includes a lot of helpful suggestions and some more information about how to use the program.

The website has a fluid selection of books recommendations, downloads and articles. I personally found this section to be valuable. I like to have a variety of weapons in my arsenal (if you know what I mean).

How We Used It and My Thoughts

Anybody else feel kind of “squeezy” when talking about certain things with your teenage son? I have always approached the weightier subjects in life…the birds and the bees, drug and alcohol use, personal integrity and who played “Doctor Who” the best…with a great deal of openness and frankness.

This series won’t help you with your the birds and the bees speech (or sway your Doctor Who vote). You will still have to dive right in there and ignore your “squeezy” feelings. There is no mention of the mechanics of sex. Instead, Abby addresses purity and God’s plan for intimacy.

My son is 15 (going on 16) and, thankfully, isn’t in the dating scene. Every time a cute little girl winks his way, I get the jitters. It is my goal to teach him to honor the women and girls in his life. I also want him to live his life with Godly integrity and not feel swayed by peer pressure.

I recognize that these goals are shared by many of you out there. 


This series is not one that should be done by your child alone. We began by watching the first session (Plan Ahead: Living Pure in a Sex-saturated Culture) video. The Guidebook helped facilitate conversation and discussion. This session contains a few suggestions. For example, writing in a journal to your future spouse or purchasing a purity ring. I especially appreciated the suggestion of setting boundaries when dating.  

This is one of those programs that needs to be chewed on. We have started Session 2 (Counting the Cost). In this session, Abby talks about the consequences of sex before marriage. This has been a really interesting session for us. You might know that Josiah is the product of a teen pregnancy. His sweet birth mother made that difficult decision to put him with a family (us!), which has been the greatest joy of our lives. I have had to walk a careful line with this one. While he has been such a blessing and we can’t imagine life without him, I have also talked to him about how much pain it caused his birth mother to walk away from his life. Her cost was high…and I can’t imagine a more selfless act.

Though Josiah has always known about the miracle of his adoption and our great joy, I was thankful for a way to have a frank conversation with him concerning those harder things. 

I was especially thrilled with the online Resources. In fact, there is an Adolescent Self-Regulatory Inventory. Are you kidding me? I (me, myself and I) need this! I am considering having everybody in the house take it at least every 3 months.  

True Confessions: I am not looking forward to the session on Pornography. I get all those "squeezy" feelings. But...I know how vital it is that we send Josiah off into battle forewarned and forearmed. Looking through that particular session, I am so glad Abby is there to help facilitate. 

This is also a resource we will revisit through the years. Josiah's experiences will undoubtedly change and we will need continuing conversation. 

Overall, this is an excellent resource. I think it would be appropriate in a small group setting, as well.  I loved reading about Abby’s own love story and I think it is a beautiful testimony of living according to God’s plan. The whole package (the videos, website and books) has been beautifully produced. If you have a teen (or preparing for those teen years) or a single, young adult in your house Sex by Design is a super resource! 

You can connect with Abby via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews.



Sex by Design {Abby Ludvigson Review}
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