Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Last Baby

“But the last one: the baby who trails his scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after - oh, that's love by a different name. He is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after he's gone to sleep.... you rock by the window, drinking the light from his skin, breathing his exhaled dreams. Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on his cheeks. He's the one you can't put down.” The Poisonwood Bible
     Why is this so hard?  I am thrilled to be done.  Overjoyed even!  I hate... fervently HATE being pregnant.  And I do not like breastfeeding either.  I adore toddlers and preschoolers, but I've never been a big fan of the newborn/infant stage.  The idea of getting past the baby stage is..uh, exhilarating.  But I'm starting to mourn.  I'm starting to realize this is it.  No more babies.  No more cradling, cooing, baby giggling, tiny cuddles. And that look he gives me.  Oh my goodness, the look!  His eyes pierce my soul and his smile melts my heart.  I can't ever imagine feeling this kind of overwhelming devotion and love for anything else.

     He is only 4 months old and I feel it is all going by way too fast.
     Slow down little guy.  Please slow down.
At least I am aware of it.  At least I am stopping for a few minutes each day and cherishing my sweet baby boy.
     He is my last.
It makes me happy to move on to the next stage of life, but it is terribly excruciating to know that this precious part of motherhood will be gone so soon. At this point, I am what makes his sweet face brighten up.  He loves me completely and unconditionally.
     Such a miracle.
Every day I thank my Heavenly Father for my family.  But right now, in this moment, I just want to freeze time and hold my baby Des longer.
     I hope Heaven is a place where we can re-live these wonderful moments.  I really do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

GPALOVEMATH Program by Great Parents Academy (GPA) {Review}

Critical Thinking Company Review
     I'd like to tell you about a math program that Marley has been doing.  It's called GPALOVEMATH by GPA LEARN.  GPA stands for Great Parents Academy, and like the company name implies the program allows parents to supervise their child's math progress.  Marley has loved this program.
     GPALOVEMATH is an online math program that provides math instruction, practice, and quizzes in the form games lead by a fun character.  The animated character talks to the student and teaches them step by step how to use the program and how to play the game and complete the quiz.  The program is broken down to provide tutorials first and then a practice quiz and finally a real quiz.
 Marley can't read the questions on her own yet, so it was nice that she could click on the question and have the character read it to her.  This was nice for me because she was able to operate the lessons on her own.  And because there is so much practice, it was pretty easy for Marley to get all the answers correct.  I felt it made her feel independent and gave her a sense of what test taking would be like.  The kindergarten level is led by a detective character trying to crack a case.  It starts out by covering identification of numbers in numeral form and in word form.  They teach the student how to count using pictures of objects, animals, and manipulatives.  There are also levels to cover colors.  This program also tracks your child's progress.
     Marley's favorite part is that after completing a quiz she is rewarded points to use in the prize store.  The prize store provides many ways to reward your child in your home and you can customize the prizes as well.  For example, they have the option to reward your child by "going to get frozen yogurt" but I know my daughter likes Jamba Juice better, so I customized one of the prizes to be a "trip to Jamba Juice."  Since I felt my daughter was too young to use the points to purchase prizes, I adjusted the "surprise" prize so that every time she completed 2 or 3 quizzes, a prize popped up automatically.  One of her favorite prizes was "stay up after bedtime for 30 more minutes."  Most of the prizes do not cost money and are easy to provide.  
     The prize incentives were great.  Marley was coming up to me daily and asking, "Can I do more homework today?" because she knew she would get another surprise reward.  I also LOVED the prize category called "Bonding Time" because all the prize ideas there are about spending quality time with your student as a reward.  How adorable is that?  Anything that encourages fun family time is a great thing.  I was impressed that the program had those reward and choices.  Very family friendly! :)
     The program creates two separate accounts.  One for the student and one for the parent.  So the student would log into their account to continue the levels.  The parent may log onto their account to see the student's progress and to adjust the prize store.  Another great feature is that you can adjust the settings of the program to send you a notification email every time your child completes a level/quiz.  The child may also "nudge" you (reminder email) to remember to give them a prize if they haven't received it yet.  Haha. I thought that was a cute feature.
     The only thing I would criticize is that the voice of the instructions is computer generated (not a human voice) so sometimes understanding what they are saying was unclear.  But if your child can read the questions, that is not a problem.  Some of the questions on the quizzes were worded in a confusing way.  But I find that is true of all tests throughout life.  
     This online program is $149 per year or $12.99 per month.  
     Overall, we really enjoy the program and I am excited to continue it with Marley.  Before this, I was lacking in math curriculum for her and now I feel I have a better understanding of her level and abilities in mathematics.  It has helped me start thinking about what route to take for that subject, and its been fun for her.        
GPA Learn Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 16, 2015

Writer's Block: Mr. Potato Head

     As a blogger there are times when I sit here and think, I've got nothing.  Some days I can't type fast enough to express what I need to say.  But today, I've got nothing.  I guess I'm feeling like I'm in a slump.  The days are blurred together, becoming one big pile of blah and I'm just waiting for the weekend to come.  What? It's only Monday?!  Eww.  Not good.
     What's a good way to get past this?  Let's talk about something really random.  When I'm feeling Writer's Block, I'm going to ask Marley what I should write about.  Today she said, "Talk about how awesome Mr. Potato Head is."  Hahaha.  That's my girl.  Appreciating the little things in life, like Mr. Potato Head.  
      He IS pretty great!  I remember my Mr. Potato Head as a kid.  I loved it.  Rearranging all those body and face parts.  Making him look like a work of art by Pablo Picasso.  Sticking all those body pieces in the storage unit in his butt.  It's all so brilliant.  This adorable little toy allows kids to use their imagination and sense of humor to create different characters.  Throw Mrs. Potato Head in the mix and the possibilities are endless. ;)
     Now that I'm a mom, I love Mr. Potato Head because my kids love him.  And because he doesn't make much of a mess and he is easy to clean up.  Yes, it's safe to say that Mr. Potato Head and I have always been good friends.  Mr. Potato Head is a classic and every home should have one.  Have a Spud-tastic day! Haha.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Alphabet Song Game by The Critical Thinking Co. {Review}

Critical Thinking Company Review

     I had the opportunity to try out The Alphabet Song Game downoad available through The Critical Thinking Co.  This particular game is appropriate for toddlers through First Grade aged children.  Since my daughters are 2 and 4, this educational game was a perfect addition to our daily homeschooling activities.  I was very happy to try it out.  The game is only available to use on a Windows application.  I wish it was available for Mac, because our family prefers it, but we were able to use the game on our laptop which is compatible with either Mac or Windows.  This was nice for my kids, due to the portability of the laptop.  They were able to play the game anywhere.  I liked that The Critical Thinking Company emailed me my receipt and a link to download the game.  It made it very easy for me to install.
     The game is a method of teaching young kids the chronological order of the alphabet.  I realized that it had been a while since we sang the ABCs.  Even though Marley can identify all the letters, she definitely needed to review the order of the alphabet.  This game was able to give her practice on both skills!  The idea is that the kids hear a letter and determine the letter that comes after.  The game uses the song to help.  I also liked that the game gave my daughter practice on using a mouse.  It goes further levels into lower case letters and random letters for more advanced alphabet exercises.  I like games that advance levels like that; it made me want to play too. Haha!

     When I first set this game up for Marley, she sat in front of the screen where a voice instructed her to click the green arrow to play.  She got started right away on her own.  I love it when educational games allow the kids to operate the game by themselves.  The independence really helps my children to take control of their progress.  That's a plus!  After she got the hang of how the game was played, she played it several times.  Before I could even try to engage my toddler, I found her walking up to the laptop and she was focused on watching her older sister play.  I think the song is appealing to little ones which helps with involving children of different ages at once.  Again, big plus!
     Every day Marley was able to attempt a level higher.  If she didn't quite master that level, I would have her do that level again the next day.  The game allowed for flexibility in progress.  Self paced education is invaluable when it comes to homeschooling.
     I found her progressing quickly in knowing the alphabet very well.  My toddler, Dylan, was also wanting to attempt the game herself.  I definitely think it helped to see her older sister play the game, because Dylan is always trying to copy Marley.  It was fun to watch her learn how to work a mouse and click on the letters.  So not only was Dylan working on her alphabet and letter recognition, but she was also developing those fine motor skills and computer knowledge!

     I loved this game!  Back to the basics.  The software is simple and appealing to the eyes and ears.  I felt it didn't over complicate the learning goals.  The consistency of the levels and progression also made it easy for my kids to play the game with confidence.  I highly recommend this game for toddlers and preschoolers...or anyone trying to master the alphabet.

Critical Thinking Company Review
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, March 9, 2015

A Thomas Jefferson Education

     I just finished reading the book A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century, by Oliver Demille.  Seriously life changing.  I already had radical ideas on education since I decided to homeschool, but this book has given me so much more to think about.  The best way I can describe the philosophy of education is "back to the basics."  Demille goes through the mistakes that are being made in school today and walks you through why teachers would be better off simplifying the way we educate our children.  He examines the education of our founding fathers and breaks down why they became great leaders and brilliant men with just a mentor and being exposed to classic works.
     It's obvious education has deteriorated over the years.  Way back when.. we had inventors, philosophers, artists, composers,
authors of classics, freedom leaders. These people were driven by the love for learning and motivation to acquire knowledge on their own.  My main goal is to raise my children to be happy, independent thinkers who can create their own path to success instead of relying on the paths of others.  This book reassures me that my goal is simple to achieve.
     One of the most interesting thoughts I got from this book is that education does not require more money.  It requires LESS.  Less curriculums, less supplies, less textbooks.  And get this...the things that we need more of, do not cost anything!  A teacher that is a good example, classic works to examine and read, customized goals for the individual, caring support, motivating words, etc.  Well, maybe you need to purchase a pen and paper. ;)
     I have read some critics of the book and their concerns are that the method does not produce results.  I have taken this into consideration.  However, as a homeschooler, I am well aware that each child is different and there is no one universal answer, teaching method, learning style, or philosophy that will take care of education.  Obviously, the parent must examine their circumstances and their children and their goals, in order to determine what supplemental teaching philosophies they will apply.  There are always curriculum gaps when adopting a certain method.  And in this case, I think TJed offers a philosophy of education rather than a curriculum.  These are ideas that are meant to be applied to other options.  I can see that the TJed philosophy taken at face value would probably not produce a brilliant scholar, but the concepts presented in the book are thought provoking and inspiring.  As a homeschooler, I can never get enough inspiration. :)  Remember, it's more of a pep talk than a curriculum.
     If you are having trouble moving away from conventional styles of educating, this is an amazing book to read.  It redefines our understanding of education.  The methods of teaching are so basic and brilliant.  And I love the concept of entrusting individual students to love learning and progress naturally by providing support, encouragement, and inspiration.  This is truly an inspiring book.  I highly recommend all parents to read it.  If nothing more than to ponder the different options of educating. But I am confident that anyone who reads this book will find valuable ideas and methods of teaching.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Egglo Entertainment: Easter Eggs That GLOW! {Review}

     With Easter coming up, we need to start thinking about our plans and ways to celebrate the holiday.  Our church usually puts together a small and simple Easter egg hunt.  It is always fun.  But I think one of the biggest concerns that most religious people have about Easter is that we celebrate without fully grasping the purpose of the holiday and remembering the meaning of Easter.  Easter is about the atonement of Jesus Christ, our Savior.  It signifies the importance of his crucifixion and resurrection.  We celebrate Easter to pay respect to his suffering for us and our salvation.  These things don't normally come across in a basic Easter egg hunt.  And don't even get me started on the ridiculous tradition of the Easter Bunny. ;)  When I heard about Egglo Easter Eggs, I was so excited to try them out!
     These Egglo Easter Eggs are made by Egglo Entertainment, and they actually glow in the dark!  The idea behind these eggs, is that you can provide an Easter Egg Hunt for your kids, but explain to them that part of celebrating Easter is trying to find the "Light of Christ."  I LOVED the concept right away!  Egglo Entertainment also offers many products sold separately that can enhance the experience of these glow-in-the-dark eggs.  They have mini scrolls with scriptures, that can be placed inside the eggs.  They have stickers that can be purchased.  They have an adorable storybook called the Egg-cellent Easter Adventure, which takes some children on an adventure through some bible scenarios.  I really liked the story and the illustrations were great!  Egglo Entertainment also offers a complete curriculum guide to go along with their products.  I thought the curriculum guide was very well done, with specific step by step instructions on how to put together an effective and spiritual Easter Egg Hunt.  All of these products are sold separately for fees ranging from $3 to $15, or they come in a package deal of $50.  I think the price is very reasonable considering it is something that can be used over and over again.

     We have a Family Night every Monday and this was a perfect opportunity to give the Egglo Eggs a try.  I read the Egg-cellent Easter Adventure to my kids.  The characters were cute and had relatable personalities.  In this story the kids go on an adventure looking for a glowing Easter egg.  The story was fun and kept their attention.  I did a brief explanation of why we celebrate Easter and said, "Now we are going to go find the light of Christ."  We turned out the lights and let the kids find their eggs.  They had a blast and were excited to find the glowing eggs hidden throughout the house.  We placed a starburst and a scripture scroll inside each egg.  The girls ate their candy happily and were excited to open up the scrolls and have us read it to them.  It was a great way to integrate scripture study and spiritual remembrance of our Savior.
     My only criticism is that the eggs need to be placed under light for at least a half hour in order for them to glow, but that is the case with any glowing products.  When they are ready to glow the glow is bright enough to see in the dark, but the eggs do not glow super bright by any means.
     One of the best parts about the eggs is that you can use them year after year.  I plan to recommend these eggs to my church for their next Easter activity, since all these products can easily be adapted to fit any Christian church.  But I am thrilled I have the opportunity to use these with my kids for Easter or other fun activities as a family.  They loved the eggs so much, that I had to hide them. Haha! ;)
I really love these glow-in-the-dark-eggs and I am confident it will continue to bring a more spiritual experience to our family Easter tradition.
Thanks Egglo Entertainment! God Bless.
Egglo Entertainment Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Learning Journal - A New Method To My Madness

     I've only been homeschooling for a year and a half and its been preschool level.  But even so, I have already changed my curriculum, methods of teaching, teaching styles, etc, many times.  I like the idea of trial and error, because it gives me hope that I will make progress and continue to improve as an educator.  Especially as I begin to take more of an "unschooling" approach, the methods of homeschooling can be surprising.  It leaves flexibility for endless possibilities in terms of education.
     My latest approach is called The Learning Journal.  It is a product I came across on Instagram.  The book provides pages and pages of spaces for kids to document their educational activities.
There is a heading labeled "What I want to learn about" along with sections labeled "What I read" "Where I went" "What I did" and "Conclusions."  I loved the concept right away.  As you can see I tweaked the format a bit to meet the needs of my preschooler.  Instead, I divided the sections to be a place where Marley could dictate to me what she did, and then she could copy my writing.  This gives her a chance to give her thoughts to document like in a real journal and then she can practice her writing/spelling/reading.  I made the third section a spot where she can draw and color a picture of her activity.  I made the "Conclusions" section a place where she will sign her name.  This way each time she does an entry she is practicing how to write out her full name.
    So far the Learning Journal is working out nicely.  Every day Marley is able to choose any activity she wants to do, like visiting a park, doing an art project, doing a science experiment, or (as pictured) celebrate National Pancake Day. ;)  After the activity is over, we sit down at the table to write about it in her Learning Journal.  She gets some academic practice in one short sitting and she is documenting her experiences.  I love that it also gives her practice in regularly using a journal.
     The Learning Journal comes with 210 pages and can be purchased on for $14.  It's simple and adaptable for many purposes.  One small feature I also like is that at the top of each page there is an interesting quote about education or learning.  I may be a bit of a nerd, but I think that is so fun!  I think this is a perfect accessory to homeschooling or educational supplies.