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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Workbox of the Week

This workbox of the week idea is so simple to set up that you'll be wondering why you didn't do this before. Take a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and fill it with shaving cream. Seal the bag with tape and presto! Instant fun for your child.
You can add food coloring to the bag and have them mix colors together for science. Leave it white and have them practice writing their letters and numbers. Pick up some of those flat alphabet beads and have them look for the letters of their name. Add bits of playdoh for a texture experience.
Activity: Bag filled with shaving cream
Materials Needed: Zip-lock bag, shaving cream, tape
Level: Preschool to Kindergarten
Cost: under $5.00
Fun Factor: 3 out of 5 for my girl
Work for the Teacher: Basically none

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Product Review: Activity Bags

As many of you already know, Margaret started the Workbox System this year. I read several blogs and came up with items that followed Pre-K/Kindergarten level learning. She is really enjoying herself and it affords me about 90 minutes to work with her older brothers on their lessons.
I do, however, sometimes feel at a loss as to what to place in the boxes. I literally have hundreds of items and ideas categorized in a Workbox Binder. Even with this amazing binder, I started to feel a bit bored of the workbox system around the fifth or sixth week. When I was offered the eBook Preschool Activities in a Bag to review for The Schoolhouse Review Crew I felt as though my struggle had come to an end.
The company Activity Bags was started by two homeschooling moms and preschool bags are intended to help occupy younger children during the school day. Preschool Activities in a Bag is an eBook that offers ideas for just what the title suggests: preschool activities that are contained in a single zip-type bag. Each activity contained in these two amazing eBooks is intended for ages 3 to 6 and contain an activity description, skills developed, supply list, instructions to assemble the bag, buying tips, and a template for a label for each bag.
The activities outlined within these bags are easy to assemble using many supplies that any homeschooling family will have on hand. They are intended to be independent activities making them a perfect fit for the workboxes.  I read through the two eBooks I received and focused on creating bags that would help Margaret in areas that she is currently working: phonics and mathematics. Believe me, the books contain a lot of activities and finding this product was like a breath of fresh air. Many activities use templates which they supply (in the back of Book 1, and with the activities in Book 2). The books also contain instructions and suggestions for setting up your own bag swap with other local moms of preschoolers.
Another interesting thing about the bags are the suggestions for further use. Don't have a preschooler? What about gifting these as a Big Brother/Big Sister gift when a new baby arrives? Or making some of these to use just when the babysitter comes? The books are filled with activities and ideas for their use.

I like it when you put bags in my workboxes because that means my schoolwork will be fun!
Preschool Activities in a Bag eBook 1 and eBook 2 are available on the Activity Bags Website for $15.00 each or as part of a bundle for $27.00. I sent both eBooks over to FedEx office to be printed and bond for about $10.00 each. They turned out beautifully, and it makes it such an easy on-hand resource. In addition to preschool level activity bags, the company offers eBooks on Science Bags, Math Bags, Reading Bags, and more. These bags range in ability level from elementary to 8th grade, so be sure to check the listing to make sure you are getting the level you desire.
Other members on The Schoolhouse Review Crew used these products and blogged about them as well. Check out their reviews by clicking here or by clicking the banner below.
Disclaimer: As a member of The Schoolhouse Review Crew I received Preschool Activities in a Bag eBook 1 & 2 in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Trick or Treating 2012

Trick or Treating is a huge deal around here. Notice I didn't say 'Halloween' because Halloween has little to do with Trick or Treating in our area. Our city chooses the Trick or Treating day and time. Thousands of people decend on our town, literally. Because of the different day, many townships that border our own stop over to Trick or Treat and then will do the same in their own town on October 31.
We always have a great time. The kids are always saints so that their costumes can do double time at the All Saints Day Festival.
The wig was off as soon as the photos were done.

Always something maimed and gory.

Our little lion. See James' photo to get the saint connection.

A very handsome King David.

Double that for King St. Louis.

Our traditional photo with the neighbors.

A photo along the way.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Product Review: Whole Fruit Smoothies

J&J Snack Foods is offering a whole new way to enjoy delicious fruit. Whole Fruit Smoothie is the perfect blend of fruit and milk and comes ready to enjoy in individual serving cups. With only 100 calories per cup, this snack requires no prep work and contains real fruit pieces in every bite.

Three different flavors are currently available in this new treat: Strawberry Banana, Pineapple Mange, and Mixed Berry. Each 4 oz cup is a delicious way to enjoy a healthy and wholesome snack.

These really are an easy way to help the kids fill up during meals. I liked how each serving was small, but packed a pwoerful punch of nutrition. I felt good giving these to my kids as a snack instead of the standard non-nutritious kid fare.
I liked it and my favorite was the dark pink one and the light pink kind.

James: I thought they were a fast and easy snack.
Isaac: I liked the yogurt taste.

I liked how there were three different kinds.

I like my milk bottle most of all.
Disclaimer: I received the above names products free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Product Review: Beloved Books

Beloved Books is a Christian company offering positive, motivational, and wholesome literature to families. One of my family's favorite activities is reading together. Whether laying around the living room or snuggled together on the sofa, we love to explore adventures in books together. As the kids get older and we have a greater span of ages, it is getting more and more difficult to find stories that are appropriate for everyone in our family.  
For these reasons I was very excited to be able to review Beloved Books' Sugar Creek Gang audio books, volume 1. These adventure stories were written in 1939 and contain all the wholesome and family values that boys and girls need, with the suspense and adventure they desire.
In addition to adventure, the stories contain poetry, song, nature study, science, as well as messages from the gospel. These messages are so carefully woven into the story that they essentially become the story.
We listened to these stories in the car, in the bedroom, in the living room, and in the kitchen. The reader is so good, that you would think there were several narrators, instead of just one. The boys loved these stories and I was so pleased to see them patiently waiting while each completed schoolwork so they could rush up to their bedroom together to listen. They finished the entire Volume 1 in just under a week, and I believe the other volumes will find their way here around Christmas time. I loved how "pure" the stories were; there were no inappropriate themes or words. Sometimes the story would get suspenseful and Margaret (age 4) would become frightened. For the most part she enjoyed the stories, but I would recommend them for ages seven to adult, unless you are listening to them as a family, in which case all ages would be fine.

I liked these stories because they had a bunch of adventures.

I liked those stories because they were exciting.

I liked it because there was a boy narrator and it was from a boys prespective and because the stories seemed like they really happened a long time ago.
The Sugar Creek Audio Volume 1 contains 12 stories and  is available for $54.95 with free media mail shipping. Try a sampler of the volume by listening to the first story for free! Click here to get started. Other products available from Beloved Books include Historical Fiction Books, Elizabeth Enright Stories, and many, many audio book collections.
Other members of The Schoolhouse Review Crew got a chance to listen to the Sugar Creek Gang stories as well. Click here to check out their reviews, or click the banner below.
Disclaimer: As a member of The Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the above named product free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation.

Friday, October 26, 2012

7 Quick Takes

I finished my first quilt.
I didn't add batting and I quilted it myself, but it still totally counts as a finished quilt.
I highly recommend that you know the number to your local Poison Control Center so that when your 18-month old drinks a large amount of 409 cleaner you can call and set your mind at ease that it's okay that he's vomiting, 409 is just detergent and soap and that probably upset his stomach. A bath and a milk bottle will cure him.
Trick or treating in our area is always a scheduled affair by the city and rarely falls on the actual date of October 31. This year it is on October 27 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. I am just a little peeved because I could really use those extra four days to get the costumes sewn. As it stands now, I have two costumes to finish between innings of the World Series.
 Have you thought about Christmas gifts yet? With five kids I start thinking early and hit sales when I see them. I need some fresh ideas for the kids that aren't LEGO related (since I already hit the buy two get one free sale at Toys R Us). The older boys want iPods, but at $250 each I was like, "Yeah, you'll get those from me never."
Here's a cute photo of Malcolm at science group:
Did you have a chance to enter my giveaway yet? No? Then you are really missing out on a cute (and free!) holiday kids book. Even if it's not your style, chances are that you know someone who would like it. Click here to learn more details about the giveaway!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Workbox of the Week

Margaret's workboxes are heavy on the letter and phonics instruction, and lacking on the math activities. I try to include a couple math boxes each day, but besides worksheets it's hard to come up with activities that she can complete on her own.
One thing I have come up with is practicing patterns. We always start with saying, "A pattern is something that repeats." I have her tell me this several times, even if she doesn't fully understand what it means. For her pattern practice, I fill the workbox with unifix cubes. You can find a package of 100 of these on amazon for around $12.00.
I will start the pattern for her by doing at least two repeats of the pattern. Then I have her add the next five to ten blocks. That way she is practicing counting and patterns.

Patterns don't come easily for her. She has pretty much mastered two-color patterns, but add a third color or a repeat that involves more than X-Y-X-Y and she is pretty confused. The nice thing is that the variety of colors and the fact that they stick together holds her interest and increases her enjoyment.  

An added bonus is that they are entertaining for little brother as well.

Activity: Pattern practice with Unifix Cubes
Materials Needed: Unifix Cubes
Level: Preschool to Kindergarten
Cost: $12.00 on amazon
Fun Factor: 4 out of 5 for my girl
Work for the Teacher: Minimal

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Product Review and Giveaway: Candy Canes in Bethlehem

Candy Canes in Bethlehem
With the holidays on the horizon, about adding a special book to the list of gifts to give? Candy Canes in Bethlehem is an endearing story about a young boy's trip around the world to learn about what Christmas means in other cultures. The vibrant color pictures and the fast-paced story line keep the interest of the youngest listeners as well as the older readers.
Available for $7.95 from The Catholic Company, this story focuses on the fact that in other countries it is not always wise men and reindeer that make Christmas seem like Christmas. An excellent introduction to Christmas around the world and a nice way to get children interested in learning about the true meaning of Christmas.
I liked the book. It had a bunch of Christmas traditions.

I thought the book was a little funny. I liked it.

I thought the book was nice especially since you got to learn that the manger isn't the only way that people would celebrate Christmas.

I liked the book. I liked the candy cane and the manger and the girl.
Would you like a free copy of Candy Canes in Bethlehem? Well, I have one to give away! Leave a comment telling me what your favorite holiday book is and I will choose a winner from the comments on October 31. Good Luck!

Contest has closed. Thanks to all those who entered.
Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review on this blog. I received no other compensation. This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Candy Canes in Bethlehem. The Catholic Company is a great resource for tools to help you participate in the Year of Faith, including Year of Faith bible studies and exclusive Year of Faith personalized gifts. The Catholic Company also has all your Advent needs in stock, such as Advent calendars and Advent wreaths.

Monday, October 22, 2012

H is for Haircuts

Blogging Through the Alphabet
I am linking up over at Ben & Me as I blog my way through the alphabet. Come and join the fun! 
H is for Haircuts, which are now a week old but are still taking me by surprise every time I see the children after a significant absence. All the boys got them, but Isaac went from short to shorter and James went from long and shaggy to long, so their cuts aren't really that noticeable. It's Malcolm and Henry that got the real cuts.
Malcolm before:
Malcolm after:

Not sure that I like it yet. He just looks like such a little man now and not so much like my baby. Sigh.
Henry was also a shock to me. Henry has perfectly straight and very thick hair that is so cute when it is long:

The new do:

Henry chose this haircut himself from a photo in a magazine. He loves it! I am a firm believer that kids should do what they want with their hair, even if it's not what I want. Henry's hair grows very fast and will be long again soon. I have to admit, the shorter hair is a lot easier to care for.