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Friday, October 20, 2017

Weekly Recap: Can we send that week back?

Last Sunday was a nice, relaxing day. Church, dad playing with the kids while mom took a nap. Lovely.

Monday our history lesson was about the city of Nauvoo. The kids were pretty good at staying on task and completing school on time all week! There were a lot of sniffles though, and by bedtime some kids were feeling sick. One child asked me to put help put essential oils on, and I did. Usually my husband does, I've been trying to figure out if a certain oil causes me to have an allergic reaction when I'm sick. But this time I helped. I'm glad I did, but our entire world changed right then.

Tuesday our literature lesson was on The Tempest, and juxtaposition. We talked about the characters and plots, and my son accused me of making words up! Ha ha! But now everyone knows what it means. I began talking to doctors and since this day I've developed a new sympathy for people with chronic conditions who need to see specialists. Whew. To help everyone have a little fun at the end of the day, we stopped by my husband's work for the harvest party they arranged for employee's children.

Wednesday we learned about respiratory diseases. I got a call from the "scheduling service" and I attempted to set up doctor appointments (no luck), visited the hospital, and I got sick. Hmm... stressed much?

Thursday we didn't do school, it's fall break here. Found out some test results were in, but STILL can't get an appointment with the specialist because he's "too busy" to read our test results. Must wait for regular doc to get back in the office. Someone's retainer broke, everyone cleaned the playroom, and I talked for a while with a friend about supporting treatment options.

Friday we spent part of the day visiting and helping grandma and grandpa. They know what's going on now health-wise, but we're not quite ready to share because we can't get the answers we need from those test results to see where we stand or create a plan. It's frustrating, and tonight the weight of the week feels heavy and I finally feel like crying. I need a path to follow, and right now I see so many before me that I can't pick where to go because I don't have all the information I need yet.

Let's hope next week comes with answers and guidance.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pencil Grip and Safety Scissors Review

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The Pencil Grip, Inc. has become one of our favorite vendors. We had the opportunity recently to review some items from them, The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit. My kids have tried one of their pencil grips before and wanted to try this kit, and the scissors were intriguing!

The items in this review were fun for my kids to try out, but they felt the items were too juvenile for all but my youngest. My oldest, M, was glad to help with this review though... she obtained permission from a family that she babysits for to try these out with their children. She used the camera on a very old phone, so many of these pictures aren't very clear but I think you'll still get a good idea of how these products work! Also, much thanks to this family for their help!

The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit:

This set of three grips is soft and squishy and very comfortable to hold. Because of the squishiness, they don't slip off the pencil. They are latex and phthalate free. The way these grips work is that they progressively teach the proper way to hold a pencil. They are not just for kids, they can be used by adults too as needed! The grips have letters indicating where the thumb should go, for both left and right hand.

The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit

The Step 1 grip is called The Crossover Grip. It has a wide area that covers the fingers, called the "super hero cape", and prevents the finger and thumb from slipping forward and across each other.

The Step 2 grip is called The Pinch Grip. It looses the cape, but retains a thick part to pinch, thus allowing the individual to see the proper way to hold a pencil or pen. 

The Step 3 grip is called The Pencil Grip Original. This one has indentations where the fingers should go, and feels quite nice in the hand.

My children tried all of the grips out, using each one many times to get a feel for what they preferred. Since my kids are a bit older, they all preferred the Step 3 grip. However, my 1st grader sometimes lets her pointer finger slip in front of the pencil as she writes, so she has been using the Step 1 grip frequently. It helps her relax her grip so those fingers don't slip!

The youngest child to try these out is a toddler. She's so young that she's still learning how to hold a pencil, so the Step 1 grip was best for helping her keep her fingers in the correct place. She thought these grips were so much fun, she didn't want to put them away!

M also got to observe how a preschooler used the grips. He grips a pencil with two fingers and thumb, almost like a half fist, so these were a little frustrating at first. But with some guidance he found these very easy to use and he liked using them. I was pretty impressed with his grip on the red pencil above.. that's a nice hold!


M would like you to know that all of the grips were easy for a left handed child to use. The Step 3 grip was a little difficult for her to hold, but I think that's completely normal at this age. I had to help my right handed first grader place her fingers on this one correctly too.

The Pencil Grip, Inc. has a poster that helps you visualize what a correct grip should look like, this is available as a free download on the website. 

If used correctly and consistently, these can help develop a better grip when writing. The children who helped us for this review, in my family and in our friend's family, showed some great examples of what is a normal progression for learning to hold a pencil correctly. Some children felt that the grips were large, but this seemed to be an indication that the grip was forcing the fingers into a different position than the child was used to. This set of pencil grips would be a great tool to help any child obtain a correct grip starting at a young age.

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors:

These are intended for ages 3 and up. We quickly nicknamed them "the pelican" because there is a plastic safety shield that covers the lower blade. These scissors are not dull like many other safety scissors are, they are nice and sharp! But because of the protective shield, children cannot cut themselves. The moving blade is shorter than the fixed blade, so you can't even pinch a tiny bit of skin in the end of the scissors.

One thing I really like about them is the yellow spring. In the first picture below, this spring is disengaged. But when you flip it the other way (second picture), it pushes the scissors back open once they have been squeezed closed. I remember watching my children as toddlers and their hands would tire while using scissors. Sometimes they'd even take their fingers out of the handle, open the blade with two hands, and start again. This little spring would have been so helpful then, plus it would also help increase hand strength!
The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors
The scissors were a little awkward for my children to use at first, you have to slide the paper in so it is level with the protective shield, but then it will cut as other scissors do. When cutting far into a paper, the part of the shield near the red handle is so thick that it makes it difficult to slide the scissors further into a deep cut in the paper. But for most young children learning to use scissors, that won't be an issue at all.

Older children were able to figure out how to use the scissors easily, but also find them very awkward. My 4th grader says they make it hard to see where to cut. The paper has to be perfectly level in the scissors or the blades just slide together and make the paper fold, rather than cut.

Our preschooler friend - M showed him how to use them and then he was able to cut paper easily. He preferred not to use the spring. Scissors are not a new thing to him though.

Our little toddler friend has used scissors many times in the past. Trying to use these was frustrating for her at first. M had to help her figure out every step, from putting the paper in the right way, to opening and closing the blades. She had a hard time cutting with the spring engaged, but it was helpful for opening the blades up. But she also had a hard time opening the blades when the spring was disengaged. After she used them for a bit, she liked them more. However, M feels like she would probably pick regular scissors over these if given the choice.

Interestingly enough, our little leftie friend uses scissors with her right hand, so I can't say how the scissors would work for a leftie!

After observing my children and our friend's children, M and I both feel like these scissors would work better for children who have never used scissors before. They are nice and sharp so they work quite well, some safety scissors are not like that, but the protective shield is cumbersome and in the way. They might also be useful for children who cut things they should not, but any paper or clothing is still going to fit into the cutting area of these.

These can be found on The Pencil Grip, Inc. website, or through the links below:
The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors
The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit

Where to find The Pencil Grip, Inc.:

The Pencil Grip, Inc.
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Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Reading Eggs Review

This site contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using these links.

Sometimes we feel like we need a change of pace. When we were offered a six month subscription to Reading Eggs, I thought that sounded like a fun change for my two youngest daughters. Looking over the Reading Eggs website, I realized that it can be used for more than beginning reading skills!

Reading Eggs*

Reading Eggs:

We tried Reading Eggs long ago, and I remember my child enjoying it. We don't use a lot of online programs, especially with the younger children, so this sort of fell off my radar. But sometimes a little change is helpful! My youngest catches on to everything so quickly that she likes to think she's an authority on many things. That is a stumbling block when it comes to reading... she does WONDERFUL, but slowing down to follow the steps to decode words she doesn't know is nearly torture. I hoped that using Reading Eggs as a supplement would provide a different way for her to learn, and take a little stress away from both of us. We still do her regular reading curriculum daily.

Reading Eggs was easy to set up. I created a username and password, logged in, and set up two child accounts. My first grader uses the Reading Eggs portion, which is intended for ages 3-7. This program teaches a child to read, and has 120 lessons in groups of 10. Each group or level of 10 lessons is contained in a map that the child progresses through. The first thing the program had N do was a placement test. I don't know if the test was conservative, or if N had trouble using the computer mouse, but it placed her a long way below where I felt she should have been. When she started doing the lessons, she said it was too easy, and it just seemed like wasting time on a video game. So I adjusted her lesson to one I thought was more appropriate. She enjoyed it more after that!

There are spelling lessons built into the program, and they are independent of reading. Meaning that my child who reads above average for her age but barely started spelling this year isn't frustrated by spelling words with more difficult phonograms. There are also vocabulary and comprehension stories in Storylands, and tests that cover phonics, sight words, and vocabulary called Driving Tests.

The parent portion of the site gives me stats such as N's estimated reading age, phonics skills, and sight words that she knows. It also tells what she has recently completed.

When N passed her first map, she was thrilled! She received a certificate which she begged me to print off immediately. This excitement has continued. The program also gives Golden Eggs for accomplishments, but she loves having a paper certificate to hang on her wall. The Golden Eggs can be used to play games and purchase items in the shop to change the look of their avatar and house. There are a lot of extras available, but my kids didn't seem too interested in them. Kids who use tablets and video games more might really enjoy these extras.

Many lessons referred to "chips", which confused my American child. I had to explain this meant fries.

I was pleased to find that each lesson has bonus printable material to go with it. That means my kids can continue their lessons offline! The worksheets are fun and go along with what the lesson teaches. Most of the worksheets are in black and white, but there are some in color too. Other bonus material includes a very helpful parent guide that explains how to use the website and what each lesson covers for Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress. This guide was VERY helpful in making sure my child was starting at the correct lesson. There are also cartoon videos to watch.

The lessons are LONG, but they are broken into parts. The child can stop and come back the next day to do the rest of the lesson. I prefer that my daughters did it that way, otherwise they were spending 30-45 minutes with a tablet or computer. That's a lot for this age.

One thing that bothered N is that not all of the letter sounds are included. One lesson was telling her that A says a short sound and a long sound. She said, "Mom! They don't know that A says /ah/ too!" She also noticed that Reading Eggs didn't include Y when listing vowels. She has learned that Y is sometimes a vowel. This is not a negative thing, it just means that Reading Eggs teaches a different method than we are used to.

About a week before I posted this review, Reading Eggs sent me an email about a new download in their bonus section... homeschool week-by-week program guides! These are really cool, they outline what lessons your child should be doing each week according to their grade level. They also tell about other subjects and give suggested reference books so you can create a year's worth of lesson plans (36 weeks per grade) using these sheets!

How to access:

We were able to use Reading Eggs on all of our devices, a Windows computer with a mouse, a Windows laptop, a Chromebook, and Android tablets. There is not an app, but we placed a shortcut on the home screen of the tablets so the girls could tap that (it's cute... it shows up as an egg!) and go directly to the website. The website was easy to use on all devices, but on the tablet we discovered that sometimes it does not show the complete screen (and then they can't see what to do) in landscape. With the tablet turned to portrait they could see the whole screen. Once I logged in with my parent account and had the browser save the password, the girls could easily choose themselves in the program and be taken to their current lesson. They didn't need to remember usernames or passwords.

Reading Eggspress:

My 4th grade daughter received access as well, but she is using the Reading Eggspress portion of the program. This is intended for kids ages 7-13. This program focuses more on comprehension, grammar, and honing reading and spelling skills. It contains longer stories, more advanced games, and interactive activities. My daughter loves the stories in this program, and she was excited to tell me all about the dictionary included with them. It allows children to look up a few words in the story to make sure they know what they mean.

Again, children progress through a map, but these contain five lessons each. The parent dashboard shows me how well my child is doing on quizzes, how they have progressed, what their Lexile level is, and how many online books she has read. There is also a "progress by category" section so I can tell how my child does on vocabulary, text analysis, and literal and inferential questions in the lessons. The lessons contain both fiction and nonfiction topics in a fun variety of texts.

Other sections include English Skills, which contains spelling lessons, the Stadium, where children can compete with other children online, a library with over 2000 books to read online, and a place to redeem rewards.

When we set up her Reading Eggspress account, we got a bit frustrated. We could NOT get the website to let her complete the placement test. We tried everything, and it would not let us click on Lesson 1 (which should start the test for a new user). I had her do the placement and then the last level for Reading Eggs to see if that would trigger Reading Eggspress, but nothing worked. I finally gave up and let her use Reading Eggs. The next day when we started the computer, I ran into the same problems again, but this time Reading Eggspress allowed me to change her level. So I picked one that I thought fit her level (following the lesson overview in the Parent Guide from the Bonus section), and she was finally able to use the site. She said that Reading Eggspress is SO MUCH better for her than Reading Eggs was. The activities are funner, and the books are longer. She's been excited to use the program daily since then! (I know one other crew member had this issue, and when she contacted Customer Service they helped her right away and she was able to reset the program to do the placement test for her child. So don't hesitate to ask for help!)

She also has printables available with each lesson, and she liked reading these stories and doing the worksheets too. This lesson was about making predictions. (There are also spelling worksheets available.)


We also got to try out Mathseeds, the math program for ages 3-9 available through Reading Eggs. My girls had fun with this program too. I also found printables for the math lessons.

Find the number seventeen

My 1st grader's lessons had her do various activities, while my 4th grader had to watch a short video clip then do activities based on the concept introduced in the video. It seemed a little easy for her, but that's probably because she's in the upper range for this math. The lessons are organized into levels, so your child can do what is appropriate for their grade or ability.

Both of my girls LOVE using Reading Eggs. They finish their other school work quickly so they can be sure to fit in some time using this website. I like that they are learning in a slightly different way than our regular curriculum teaches, because that will help expand their knowledge. Having extra stories to read through the lessons is one of their favorite parts.

To sum up some important details about this program:
  • Lessons are broken down into sections so child isn't spending a lot of time online
  • Printable worksheets reinforce lessons
  • Great/fun/interesting age-appropriate lessons and materials
  • Kids LOVE it!
  • Easy to use
  • Contains reading, spelling, math, comprehension, and more! With Homeschool Guides you can plan a full year of curriculum.

One program that we did not use is Reading Eggs Jr. It is an early learning program for ages 2-4. That means Reading Eggs can help kids with their reading skills from ages 2 to 13!

Reading Eggs is offering my readers 4 weeks of free access to the program so you can try it out for yourself! This offer will expire on November 30, 2017, so sign up soon!

Where to find Reading Eggs:

Reading Eggs

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Weekly Recap: The two week edition

I'm two weeks behind, so I'm going to try to catch up all in one post! It's good to be so busy, but it sure drains me.

Over the past two weeks we've taken our van in to be fixed twice. There's a strange noise that's been going on for at least two years, and mechanics have always said it's nothing to worry about, but they've not been able to tell us what it is. It's worse than ever, and we want it fixed. Both times they said it was fixed, but it is not. We've spent so much now on NOT fixing the problem that we're pretty frustrated, but the manager of the shop wants to help solve this for us so we'll go visit him soon.

I got to take pictures of my cousin, who will be leaving on an LDS mission soon. That was a lot of fun for me, and we ended up with a lot of wonderful images!

We found the cabinet to hang in our coat closet finally! We were wandering through Ikea, I already knew nothing was going to work and was trying to redesign my plans in my head, when we noticed a built in wine cupboard in the kitchen cabinets. It was SO expensive but almost the perfect size. We were leaving and decided to walk through the last chance section. There was one, a display model in a discontinued finish, that was half price! So we're working on our coat closet. Pictures to come soon.

My kids ran in the 5k that our ward (church) holds every year and my son won a medal for his age group. I got to take pictures. It was a fun night!

My husband and J went to the Liberty Trek campout for scouts. They had a great time, and really enjoyed the presentations as they learned about the constitution and founding of our government.

My uncle passed away, and we attended his viewing and funeral. It was good to see family again, and I am so grateful for our knowledge of the plan of salvation.

We attended Stake Conference (a regional church meeting). I always love going to these sessions.

We bought Book of Mormon Study Guides and decided to up our study-the-Book of Mormon game. We're pretty good at reading daily, but with recent conference talks we really felt the spirit telling us to do more. We're checking in on each other weekly to encourage and share.

We helped at my parent's house, they needed some work done in the backyard and some shelving assembled to fill the closet in my mom's craft room. We also helped them prepare apples to put in their new freeze dryer.

Some school lessons over the past two weeks:
History: The Kirtland period and the Kirtland Temple; The beginning of the Missouri Period
Literature: Simile, metaphor, puns, alliteration in The Tempest; Prospero vs. Stephano as masters to Caliban and captivity to God or Satan.
Science: Muscle groups; the respiratory system
Geography: Climate reports for our countries; how lakes are formed
Music: Vivaldi and Schubert

Whew. Let's hope I'm ready to start again in the morning!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Channie's Easy Peasy Cursive Review

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My youngest (1st grade) is still learning cursive, and though she's doing quite well, she does need daily practice. When we were offered the opportunity to review one of Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks, we chose the Easy Peasy Cursive one. This workbook looked different than any other cursive practice workbook I'd seen.

Channie's Easy Peasy Cursive Workbook

Channie's workbooks are unique because they offer a visual aspect to penmanship that is necessary for young learners, yet often lacking in penmanship instruction. In my experience of teaching my four children manuscript and cursive, they need to see someone form the letters so they know the correct way to move their pencil. They also need to see specifics about the size of the letters such as how tall or how far below the main line they reach.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Weekly Recap: With General Conference

Last Sunday was a fun day together as a family. Not with as much family as we had hoped though, because we weren't able to travel down to attend my niece's daughter's baby blessing. My kids decided to make honey caramels after church. Yum! The recipe came from The Millennial Instructor, which is a pretty amazing book! We're SO excited for Volume 2 to come out this winter!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Weekly Recap: Where I try to catch up

I'm going to try to catch up here, so I can relieve some stress about not having these posts up on time!

Monday we had our history lesson about the First Vision. It was a really good one and I love hearing the children's testimonies of the restoration. My husband had the day off work, and we took a drive to test drive a vehicle. We are not buying it, there are too many little things here and there that are suspicious, and the price is too high for the multiple things that would need to be fixed soon.