October 28, 2015

Peter and the Wolf from Maestro Classics {Product Review}

"I still remember the first time that I experienced the story Peter and the Wolf with music. Hearing the different characters represented by a variety of musical instruments enhanced the beauty of the story and I can remember so much of it even today." This was how I began my review of Maestro Classics last year as I shared why I loved getting to introduce my boys to the power of music in regards to storytelling. Who would have known that this year, I would get the chance to review that very story? I was tickled to officially be able to introduce my boys to the much beloved Peter and the Wolf story, and I hoped that they would enjoy it as much as I did.
Peter and the Wolf by Maestro Classics: A Review

Product Summary

Maestro Classics produces a classical music CD series aimed to introduce children to classical music, by taking beloved children's books and setting them to music. Every piece has been composed/arranged by conductor Steven Simon and is performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The stories are read aloud by a narrator while the music is being performed.

There are currently twelve titles in their collection:
• Peter and the Wolf 
• The Story of Swan Lake
• The Sorcerer's Apprentice
• My Name is Handel: The Story of Handel's Water Music
• The Solider's Tale
• The Tortoise and the Hare
• Juanita the Spanish Lobster
• Casey at the Bat
• Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
• Juanita la langosta espaƱola
• Carnival of the Animals
* The Nutcracker (New!)

Each music CD sells for $16.98, but is also available as a downloadable MP3 for $9.98. As part of this review I was allowed to choose Peter and the Wolf to review with my two boys age 5 and 9.

How Did We Use This Product?

Using this product is simple--I pop it in our big CD player, and armed with the pamphlet, the boys and I enjoy the music. We find that it's a great thing for us to do while we are eating a meal--usually lunch or breakfast, and the boys have a great attention span during this time.

I caught the boys attention simply by announcing the title of the CD--if it was about a wolf, they were interested. So at that point I just let the CD do the work and we listened and I watched as the boys experienced this great piece of music and story for the first time.

I remembered every characters instrument as soon as the music started. I had forgotten how much I REALLY enjoy this piece of music...and right away, I could tell the boys were enthralled.

Both boys wanted to see the pamphlet so they took turns looking at it. They really liked matching the instruments with the characters. We listened to the whole CD the first day, and since then, we have been listening to the primary selections (the actual Peter and the Wolf music) since. That is the part they love the most.

Here is a list of all the items included on the CD:
1. Introduction
2. Peter and the Wolf
3. About the Composer

4. A Russian Peter: Peter and the Wolf played on traditional Russian instruments
5. About the Music
6. Peter and the Wolf Orchestra Only (no narrator)
7. Invitation to Grandfather's Party

8. Kalinka

Samples of each of these tracks are available on the website to get an idea of what to expect.

There are several pages of activities included in the pamphlet, but other than a couple of them, the boys just aren't interested in them. They just want to listen to the music and I'm definitely okay with that.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

It was another hit! The boys adored the music, and loved the story even more. Baby Britches liked to sit with the pamphlet open to the page with the characters and instruments and then he'd say "which one is it for him?" and I'd show him. Once he did that two times, he would then point out the correct instrument for each character every time we listened to it.

They would get excited whenever they heard the duck or the cat and Little Britches told me that it reminded him of what they do on the old Looney Tunes and Tom n Jerry cartoons (the only cartoons they watch). He said that the clarinet used on Peter and the Wolf was the same sound as what they used for Tom.

The awareness and deeper listening has really been great to see. They will be playing toys while the CD is on, and then stop and tell me when they hear the different characters songs. They now are more familiar with the instruments being shared and I think it will be a great tie in when we do a music appreciation class in our homeschool starting in January--where the focus will be on instruments. This gives them a great foundation.

We used the pamphlet and I let them do the games and such in it...but really, they just love the music and want to listen to it.

I love that we can take this with us on a trip and pop it into the CD player and have something fun to do. Now that we have three CD's this really has made our entertainment on the trips more enjoyable.

Is there anything we don't like?
No, not really. This is just a great product and we enjoy it immensely.

Would I Recommend This Product?

Absolutely! This was our third CD and I think they loved it more than the others...or at least just as much! It is a great way to introduce your children to classical music and to bring stories they know to life with a "soundtrack". I think that if you are looking to do something along the lines of music theory in your homeschool, you could easily use these products. Especially since they come with FREE downloadable curriculum guides!

Want to Know More?

We reviewed Peter and the Wolf from Maestro Classics. The Nutcracker was another selection some of our crew members reviewed as well--why don't you check out what their thoughts were on this classic masterpiece!
Maestro Classics Review
To stay up to date on the newest products and resources from Maestro Classics, make sure you connect with them on these social media outlets:

I am so glad that they enjoyed this selection. It also made them ask to pull out the other two CD's we have from Maestro Classics to enjoy all over again! I love having them appreciate good music and responding to it so well! I can't wait to see what our wonderful selections Maestro Classics will add in the future--we will definitely be checking them out!
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October 27, 2015

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner {Product Review}

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I had the PERFECT homeschool planner last year. It was basic with pretty much just blank calendars and blank planning pages with a spiral binding. Perfect. Unfortunately, it wasn't available in printed form for this year, just digital/downloadable. I am a paper and pencil kind of person and prefer to NOT print off all my pages. I am also so picky about my planners, that though I have tried many of the new and popular free/inexpensive designs, I haven't been able to find the one I am happy with. Did I mention I'm also sort of a Type B organizational sort of person which means bare minimum work or I give up and run?? After scanning the information about the Ultimate Homeschool Planner--Orange Cover from Apologia Educational Ministries, I was hopeful that maybe this one just might be what I was looking for and was eager to review it.

Product Information

Apologia Educational Ministries is one of the THE top companies for all things homeschooling with a Christian perspective, in fact they are the #1 publisher of creation-based science curriculum and have won countless awards for their high quality products. With a full range of curriculum, resources, and online classes, they are a company ready to help make homeschooling easier. Included in their product, is a full line of planners for the homeschooling family. Of these, one of the most popular is the Ultimate Homeschool Planner.

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ($29) is a beautiful day-planner by best selling author Debra Bell, designed to help you prioritize your day from your personal prayer and Bible Study, to your homeschool goals, lessons, assignments and appointments. The 48 week planner includes inspirational quotes on the calendar, customized daily, weekly, monthly and yearly planning forms for up to six children, reading lists, year end reviews, and more! The planner has a spiral binding with a sturdy cover also containing two pockets. The planner is available in a yellow, orange, or blue cover. 

I was given The Ultimate Homeschool Planner--Orange Cover to review for my own use. 

How Did I Use The Product?

I admit. I was initially very skeptical about this planner. I have tried so many other planners, that I just didn't really think this one would be any better--even though it looked good on the website. When it arrived, however, I immediately admired the quality and design. I loved the big spiral binding and the pockets in the cover right off the bat! As I continued to flip through it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually just the style of planner I liked: there wasn't a lot of extras in it. It was almost entirely made up of exactly what I desired--blank calendars and weekly lesson planning forms. 

But, before I dove into the parts I especially wanted, I explored it from the beginning to see the recommendations for how it should be used. There are several pages at the beginning to do just that--including a table of contents to quickly find the section you are looking for.

In the introduction--or User's Guide--the author advises and encourages the user to make it their own, but gives plenty of ideas on how I can do that. One of the first things she (Debra Bell), talks about is that God designed us to live a "God-ordered life." Okay. I see right away that this planner is geared for the Christian homeschool mom (like me!) and I settled in to read more. One of the things that the author suggests in the introduction pages of the planner, is that every Friday afternoon, there should be a weekly review section with each student--just 15 minutes or so--to reflect back on the week and talk about the highlights, successes, and challenges. I had never considered doing this, and found it interesting that the author included a portion of the lesson planning pages FOR this. I knew I wanted to explore this more.

For the rest of the introduction (User's Guide), she gives you ideas on how to use each section of the planner including ways to promote independence in your student. Including ways to correspond your planner with her Ultimate Daily Planner for Students or Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens for your children.

Here are some photos of these pages:

Once I worked through the user's guide, I dove right in. I actually went ahead and did the student goal setter to set some character and academic goals for each child. Again, each planning section allows for up to six children, so I had plenty of room with just my two.

The next section was the blank monthly planner. I love that it's blank AND that there is TONS of room for writing notes on the side, and on the bottom--not just in the days themselves. The monthly planner is also big enough to overlap into the next month by about a week--this is very handy if you need a week's glance ahead (me me!). Each two-page spread also includes a scripture (at the bottom) and an inspirational quote (top right). 
Look at all that beautiful space!

Love the extra room for notes!!
After the monthly planner comes the weekly planner. A special aspect of the weekly planner is the two page pre-week planner. I call it this because you sort of fill it out before your week begins, as well as take notes during your week. It includes an inspirational quote or passage, Bible Plan (for your to jot notes about focus for the week from your Bible), Battle Plan (things you want to address this week--with a fighter verse to get you going), Prayers (self-explanatory), and Hospitality/Outreach (what are you going to do for others?). The second page is where you note down memorable moments, achievements and evidences of grace throughout the week. This is the page that gets shared with your children during the Friday weekly review. 
Love this Page for Pre-Planning!
The actual weekly planner itself is very basic and exactly what I was looking for. I had plenty of room for BOTH boys for all their subjects and assignments, with extra room for notes, supplies lists and appointments. I found there was yet ANOTHER inspirational quote on each week's page. There are enough of these for 48 weeks. More than enough for a single school year!
You can either go 6 categories across the top, or 6 down the side. I chose to do subjects down the side and then a 5 day school week--this gives me even ANOTHER column for notes! Yay!
The rest of the planner contains: 

*Record pages for grades, reading lists, and activities/field trips. Remember--always enough for up to six children! 
I am recording the few test stores that I actual get for Little Britches for my own reference.
*Teaching Tips (6 pages worth)
*High School Planning Guide
*Year-End Review (for summarizing progress made)
*Notes (Just a blank page for notes)
As of this week, I have gone through a monthly planning page and have October thru December laid out with major appointments, due dates and trips. I have used the weekly planning pages for three full weeks worth of lessons for two children.

What Are My Thoughts On This Product?

As you could read interspersed through my description of the product, I pretty much adore it!! It really is EXACTLY what I need! And I have to admit--I think I love it even MORE than the planner I used last year because this one has even less extras, AND it has a bigger binding and...two pockets! Woot! I take my planner pretty much everywhere...even using it while we were on our trip to Jekyll Island to plan out our school routine while we were there.
This was me confiscating a table in our beach house for planning!
I especially love that the monthly calendars are BIGGER than just 4 weeks. I like being able to write down what's going on the first few days or the first week of the following month! Helps me stay on top of due dates and appointments! 

I have found the weekly planning guide to be very very helpful. I have enough room for all my subjects and assignments and I CAN do a fourth grade student and a Kindergartner all on one two page spread which is fabulous. And the extra margin for notes, supplies and appointments? Love it!
I'm a big quote/scripture person, so having these peppered on every single page just warms my heart. I love that this planner helps me be God focused in my planning.

Is there anything I don't like?--well, okay. The $29 price tag. I love my planner very very much. But the jury is still out on whether I love it enough to put down $29 of my homeschool budget for one. But when I think of all the ink and paper it's saving me, because I'm not printing everything out...well, I think I will probably just budget it in! 

ETA: Yes! I love it enough to buy it for $29!!!! I am still using it as of today (MARCH 2016). Having it spiral and just what I like--worth the money!

Oh--and attendance. It would be nice to have a few pages of basic attendance forms. That's the one form I wouldn't mind adding. Now if only they could get a pink covered one....(hint hint!)

Would I Recommend This Product?

Oh yes. If you are like me--more of a Type B basics only planning/organizing sort of person, then this is the planner for you. If you want a planner to help you stay more God-focused in your planning, this is the one for you. If you want something that allows you for the basic LIFE planning as well as homeschool planning-yep, this one is for you too. Paper and Pencil person for lesson planning? Yep. Got you covered. Inspirational quote/scripture lover? Boom. This is for you. Need to plan for up to 6 kids? No problem!

If you are wanting a lot of forms to help you plan LIFE, not just homeschool...nope. If you aren't wanting anything religious minded--nope. If you want something to keep track of attendance--you will have to add a page on your own or something. That's one thing this one doesn't do. There are no menu planning, no budgeting, no big goal setting pages. So if you want more of a DAILY planner, this one probably isn't the best one for you. And if you want a CHEAP planner--well you get what you pay for...this one isn't cheap, but it's rather incredible.

I encourage you to go to the website and check it out! They also have some sample pages and the TOC that you can download for a closer look!

It's my new homeschooling best friend. I pink puffy heart love it. :0)

Want To Know More?

I reviewed The Ultimate Homeschool Planner--Orange Cover ($29) from Apologia Educational Ministries. You know that I am in love with this planner for all the basic aspects it offers...but I encourage you to visit some of the other crew members to see how they used it with multiple children, or with some of the extras I didn't choose to use.
Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review
Would you like to stay in the know about all things relating to Apologia Educational Ministries and what they offer? Make sure you connect with them on these social media outlets:
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So there you have it. My search is over. I HAVE found the planner of my dreams! I am so thankful and grateful AGAIN for the review crew products that come my way. I am confident that this planner will help me stay on top of our school year for a better chance at organizational success--in my own little scattered type B way!

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Famous Artists: Books, Activities, and Crafts {Poppins Book Nook}

I have been so busy with school, that it's been challenging for me to stay on top of the Poppins Book Nook themes each month. I just haven't been able to work the last few themes into our school stuff...and this one is not any different. But for the theme of Artists, I have put together a collection of books and linked up activities relating to this subject to introduce your children to the wild world of Art from my own list of favorite artists and books!
Exploring Famous Artists: Books, Activities, and Crafts

The links on this blog and in the posts may be affiliate links
Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

Art is something that we love to do here in the house, but it's something that I just sort of work in with crafts relating to various subjects we are learning. My mother-in-law is an art major and a great resource for me when I'm stuck on ideas. We believe that art is important to life and it's a great way to express oneself. I've tried to showcase different artist styles in a casual way as we come across them...especially through books!

Here are books and activities that I have put together to give you some ideas for exploring the world of art with your own family!

by Christina Bjork
Illustrated by Lena Anderson

Linnea has been in Paris. And she has visited the painter Claude Monet's garden! She even stood on the same little Japanese bridge that Monet painted so often in his pictures. In Paris, Linnea got to see many of the real paintings. Now she can understand what it means to be called an Impressionist, and she knows a lot about Monet's life in the pink house where he lived with his eight children.~Amazon

I love love love this book! Monet is definitely my favorite artist as his style just resonates with me. I have enjoyed introducing the boys to his work with this book. The illustrations are gorgeous and show places in Paris that inspired much of Monet's work. It is very easy to use this book to encourage your child to make their own watercolor or oil paintings. 

Other books about Claude Monet for further reading:

The Boy Who Bit Picasso
by Anthony Penrose

Tony was a boy with a special friend—a world-famous artist by the name of Pablo Picasso. Tony and his parents entertained Picasso at their home in England, and they went to visit Picasso and his family in France, too. Tony, when a child, really did bite Picasso. And Picasso bit him back! ~ Amazon

Another fun and clever introduction to a famous author is through this fun book about Pablo Picasso. This book is filled with information about Picasso's personal life as well as over 60 illustrations, including artworks by Picasso! Picasso is someone that children enjoy studying because of his range of style.

Here is a list of activities to help explore the world of Picasso:
*Picasso Cubist Paper Bag Puppet
*Pablo Picasso Word Search
*Picasso Face Art Project
*Pablo Picasso (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia


van Gogh and the Sunflowers
by Laurence Anholt

Young Camille befriends a strange visitor to his small town, and one day he brings this man a gift of bright, beautiful sunflowers. The man is the artist Vincent van Gogh, and the sunflowers quickly become the subject of a magnificent painting. This is a title in Anholt's Artists Books for Children series, in which author and illustrator Laurence Anholt recalls memorable and sometimes amusing moments when the lives of the artists were touched by children. Anholt's fine illustrations appear on every page and include reproductions of works by the artists. ~Amazon

Vincent van Gogh is another one of my favorite artists...well sometimes. LOL. I admit that there are certain of his masterpieces that I prefer over others. I think my most absolute favorite is his Starry Night. There is just something about it that is almost magical! I really enjoy sharing his work with my boys and looking at all his strokes he's used to create them.

Here are some ideas to exploring van Gogh with your children:

*Vincent van Gogh Study for Kids ($)
*Recreate the Starry Night materpiece for Kids
*Starry Night Printable Book and Art
*30 Coloring Pages related to Vincent van Gogh
*Vincent van Gogh (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia

I will also add that for your older children, there is a great episode of Doctor Who that goes back into the time of Vincent van Gogh and his personal life and paintings. It's a fun way to add a bit of Art History in.

Do you like notebooking? You can create a notebook page for any artists you learn about using this great set of free artist notebooking pages from homeschoolshare.com.

I also strongly suggest you check out my friend Anna of Where My Treasure Is and read her wonderful post about incorporating art history in a Charlotte Mason style into your home...for all ages!

Did you know that I have reviewed three products with a focus on art history? If you want to double up art history with the actual creation of art, I recommend you check out my posts listed here:

*ARTistic Pursuits: The Way They See It (Preschool)
*ARTistic Pursuits: Early Elementary K-3 Book 1: Introduction to Visual Arts
*Ms. Woods Wild Art Adventures: Rainforest

Are you ready to see what the rest of the Poppins Book Nook Book Club has for you to explore? Here is our list of contributors so you can check out the books and activities they have put together for you!

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October 26, 2015

Phonetic Zoo: A Phonics Based Spelling Program for the Auditory Learner {Product Review}

Spelling. The bane of our homeschooling experience. We have already tried out two other complete curriculum without any luck in mastery or...enjoyment. Little Britches is an auditory learner and none of the programs we have tried were geared to that style. Enter Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) and their Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set]--a program designed FOR the auditory learner. I was eager to review this product to see if it was all that I hoped for in a spelling curriculum for our family. 
Phonetic Zoo~ Product Review from Farm Fresh Adventures

Product Information

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is recognized as one of the premier writing curriculum companies on the homeschooling market today. The founder Andrew Pudewa has a mission to help students learn how to write well, think clearly, and express themselves articulately and confidently. Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW for short) offers everything from complete Language Arts curriculum packages for Kindergarten to High school, to focused writing curriculum. There are even special curriculum available for special needs students!

I have been blessed to have experienced several of IEW's products including their Fix It! Grammar curriculum, the Student Writing Intensive Level A curriculum, and the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style program. I am always eager to discover other products that they offer...like their spelling curriculum!

If you are looking for a spelling curriculum, IEW offers them for the full age group from Kindergarten through High School! One of the programs geared to the 3rd grade+ range is their Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program! It comes in three levels:

Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A (Grades 3-8)
Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B (Grades 3-8)
Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level C (Grades 6-12)

What makes this curriculum different? It's especially geared towards the auditory learner! It's a phonics based program that uses an input through the students ears to absorb the correct spelling of each word. The program also is geared towards repetition to mastery! The audio cds in the starter set allow your child to work independently most of the time too!

A starter set is available for anyone who hasn't experienced Phonetic Zoo Spelling yet. 

Materials included in the Phonetic Zoo Spelling Starter Set (retails for $99):

*5 audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads)or MP3 downloads and no CDs
*Lesson Cards with all three levels of spelling words and jingles
*Personal Spelling Cards to keep track of your student’s typical misspellings
*Zoo Cards that serve as a way to practice jingles or as rewards
*Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file
*Spelling and the Brain video seminar (link to streaming video)

A placement test is available and highly recommended to determine what level your student needs to start with. If you are not new to Phonetic Zoo, it's possible to just purchase the Audio CD you need for the level you want. It's also possible to buy pieces of the sets. On a budget? You can also purchase a budget package.

After taking the placement test, I determined that we needed the Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program Level A [Starter Set] for completing my review with Little Britches, age 9.

How Did We Use This Product?

I eagerly anticipated the arrival of this product! Even before the physical pieces of the set arrived, I went online to my IEW account and downloaded the Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes PDF file so I could begin looking through it. The notes include several pages relating to how the program works and why it works and what the goals are. I went ahead and printed out all the pages and put them into a binder. I noticed that the final pages in the PDF are appendices which are discussed in the notes. One of the appendix section contained a blank spelling test form that could be used for the student, if it was preferred over blank notebook paper. I decided that we would use this and went ahead and printed out ten of them.

I also went ahead and printed out the pages for the "Zoo Cages" where the zoo cards would be attached as we went through our different lessons. There is a nice explanation in this section talking about how you can use these cages to make a big poster board of sorts, or even a Phonetic Zoo city for your walls. At this time, I decided we would just attach them to the papers themselves.

The next thing I did while waiting for the physical product was to listen to the Spelling and the Brain seminar by Andrew Pudewa. I opted for the mp3 that I downloaded and listened to from my Kindle. It was a GREAT way to learn more about the program, why it was created and the kind of children it would work for. As I listened I was like "Yes! Yes! This is us!" It was so worth it just to hear that seminar.

Finally the physical product came and I eagerly tore into the package. I received the audio cds, lesson cards, and zoo cards in this package. I looked over the downloadable teachers notes one more time, this time seeing how the physical products pieced together with it.

It seemed to have very easy and simple steps:

1. Introduce the lesson using the Teachers Notes and Zoo Lesson Card (each are labeled with the lesson number). Read and show the words for the appropriate leveled words (Level A for us). Teach the jingle that is set up for each lesson.

2. Give child a headset, blank test, and pen. Next, set them up with the audio CD with the track that matches their lesson. There are two tracks for each lesson--first track is for the spelling test and the second track is for your child to correct their work.

3. Once your child has taken the test, they are to correct their own work. The teacher can look over the words to make sure the child didn't mistakenly miss a word spelling.

4. If your child got 100% on the test, then they simply need to get 100% on the next day's test. If your child misses words, they write the word correctly next to the misspelled word which has been crossed out. The next day, they take the test again, and correct their test again. The student continues to take the test over again until they get 100% two days in a row.

5. Once the child has received 100% two days in a row, it is considered mastered and they can move to the next lesson. The process then repeats with each lesson.

6. When the lesson has been learned, you can give the student the zoo card which will help them remember the lesson rule with an animal cue. The student can attach this to the cages sheets where they can note down three words from their lesson.

7. Every 5th lesson is a Personal Spelling card. Through out the weeks prior, the parent can note down words that are being misspelled from writing lessons, or they can use words from the lists of frequently misspelled words included in the Appendices, or use the extra lessons provided in the appendices that aren't going to be covered in the lesson cards. These lessons will have the parent doing the test giving and correction--but should be done in the same manner as the audio cds.

As of right now, we are on Lesson 5-Personal Spelling cards, where I used the -ck spelling lesson from the appendix. He has received his first 100% and is going to be hopefully getting his next one with our next spelling day. 

What Are My Thoughts On This Product?

Little Britches: It's the best spelling I've ever done! It's so easy and I can do it on my own and keep doing over the words over and over until I get them right. I like that I get to correct my own work, but I don't have to write my words like 30 times or anything. The jingles also make it easier for me to remember my lessons. I like that they say them several times during my test.

Me: Amen! LOL. I second and third everything he said because---it means we don't fight with spelling anymore! Spelling is easy breezy and he's really learning it...FINALLY!

Here are the reasons it's working for us:

1. It's almost completely auditory. 
He's an auditory learner. Hearing these words over and over. And hearing hearing their spellings over and over in his ears. It's key to his success. Same as having the jingles to guide him. Think Spelling Bee. That's how this program operates! Imput it in the correct order and keep reviewing it orally with them hearing the correct spellings until they get it right!

2. It's independent.
Other than the first day when I give the lesson, it's pretty much all on him to get it done. He simply grabs his headset, paper, and pen...then gets going on the laptop with the audio cd. He loves being able to correct his own work and I hear him cheer his own progress. "Yes! I got that one!"

3. It's short and to the point.

He has a fairly short attention span--he is a boy you know. The fact that this system requires just a little time each day and is very to the point without a lot of extras, makes it ideal for him.

4. It's repetitive to mastery.
For many spelling programs, you take one test and then move on--no matter what your score. With this program, you can't move on until you get two 100% tests in a row. This is ideal for him. He loves that it's the same words every time. He tries hard to do better with each test all on his own. He comes up with little ways to remember the word combinations so he doesn't miss them the next time. "Pe-o-ple". He is doing well and remembers the rules. I even saw him use the jingle for one of the writing assignments which made me very happy.

Is there anything I don't like?
Well, the only thing that's more of mom-student thing to take care of is that I caught him a few times changing his spelling of words during correction. Fortunately, I had seen the words he had written so I knew he had done this. I explained that he needed to remember there wasn't a penalty for missing words. Nor was it going to help him learn the words if he continued to do it. For the next few tests, I simply had him bring me his test to look at before he corrected his work. This quickly nipped the issue in the bud. It is something that the parent will need to be aware of when allowing them to work through their tests on their own.

So, will we continue to use this program?
Teachers Notes can be used for all 3 levels, just like the cards
Absolutely. No doubt about it. This is working for us and I thank God that we were blessed with this program. I really like that the Lesson Cards can be used for all three levels, so once we are done with Level A, I could continue to use the program to work through the Level B and Level C words.

If I want the independent aspect, I would have to purchase the audio cds (or mp3s) for each of these ($59 download each), but I can always simply follow the method and do the spelling tests for the upper levels the way I would do the Personal Spelling cards.

Will I use this with Baby Britches?
Hmm. That's the catch. I don't know. He does not have an auditory learning style, so other programs might work better for him, but this one is so good, I may just give it a whirl for him too when the time comes. 

Would I Recommend This Product?

Are you struggling with spelling in your school? Does it seem like your child can spell the same word four different ways, EVEN after learning it the traditional spelling way? Does your child HATE spelling? Do you want your child to have mastery over the words they are learning? Does your child work well with some independence in their lessons? Do you want an open and go program? What about multiple students able to work through it together? Then I definitely would recommend checking out this program! It has been a Godsend for us because I was answering yes to all of these questions myself--even after trying out two other well known spelling programs!

Want To Know More?

We reviewed Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program Level A [Starter Set] (retails for $99.00) from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). You have seen how much we enjoy this program, but why not check out the rest of my review crew thought about it! I also encourage you to check out some of the teams review on the Resource Set!


I am so happy with the results of this program. We finally found a spelling curriculum that not only works, but Little Britches actually likes to do! It is great to add another win to our experiences with products from Institute for Excellence in Writing--I look forward to continuing to use their products for years to come!
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October 23, 2015

Random 5 for Friday~ Oct. 23

Friday the 23rd of October. Are you kidding me? How did THAT happen? Poof and these months are gone anymore. Well, here we are at another Friday. Just one more left before November is here. Again. Seriously? LOL. Here are my five random things for this week...
The Pebble Pond

1. My week started out very rough with the death of my most beloved Grandma. She was the grandparent I was the absolute closest too. The person in my family most like me than anyone else. I was the only grandchild to be allowed to live with her after college. We shared more in common than anyone else. She taught me how to do things she didn't teach anyone else. I knew she was going to be leaving this world before too long--she's been sick for so long. But I guess in my heart, I sort of hoped she'd live forever.

2. Next Friday I am making a trip back to the Northwest with my brother and cousin (both living in Cincinnati) for my Grandma's celebration of life. Unlike my trip for my grandpa, which involved me being on the ground in WA for a mere 48 hours, this trip is going to be a few days long. I appreciate this as it will give me time to connect with my family and some friends that I don't get to see very often living out here in KY. And I love flying.

3. I haven't flown with my brother since...2001. Can you believe that? Strange but true. It's been 14 years since we last flew together. That's what happens when one of us is 10 years older and gets married and moves away. I look forward to our trip. It can be fun to travel with family. Especially when you are needing to travel because of a sad event. Family makes things easier.

4. Living two hours away from the airport can be a pain. Like when you have an 8am flight. And you need to be at the airport by 6:30am. And you have to leave the house at 4:30am. Let's not even talk about what time I will have to get up next week. I was not amused at my husband chiming in with this lovely information this morning.

5. Finally, I have created a very special post over on my blogs Facebook page. It was written after seeing a beautiful status from a dear friend. She and I are working hard to bring awareness to beautiful babies who are born with craniofacial deformity affected individuals--especially babies born with cleft palate and cleft lip. We are asking leading baby products brands to consider placing a beautiful baby with physically visible special needs like these on their packaging to help raise awareness. We are calling it the #CleftStrong movement and hope you will check it out and join us!
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October 20, 2015

Skin Care Products with Natural Ingredients from Koru Naturals {Product Review}

As you should know by now if you are a regular to my blog, we are a natural ingredient family. We try to limit our exposure to chemicals in our home-from cleaners to our hygiene items. Earlier this year I enjoyed testing a shampoo and conditioner from Koru Naturals, and when they offered their Skin Clear CreamManuka Honey Propolis SoapManuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser, and the Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner, I was eager to review it and put it to the test. Maybe I could find a new line of body/facial care products that met my standards!
Koru Naturals Product Review

Product Information

Koru Naturals is a company with deep New Zealand roots. They began to bring in things like active manuka honey, lanolin, tea tree, manuka oil, rosehip oil and Rotorua mud from New Zealand to the United States, in order to share in the richness of what New Zealand had to offer in the line of beauty products. In 2002, they opened their store for the world to enjoy and have been providing high quality natural products ever since.

As was discussed in my review earlier this year, they carry a top of the line Emu oil as well as a Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Conditioner. I encourage you to check these out.

Here is some information about a few more products that Koru Naturals offers!

Skin Clear Cream
In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original release of this product, Koru Naturals has released their most advanced formulation of this creme. It still contains the original ingredients of raw unpastuerized manuka honey and pure steam distilled Manuka Oil, but also contains several more botanical ingredients including: Kawakawa and Harakeke, Burdock Root, Thyme and Canadian Aspen Bark. --Please note that the product says not to use on children younger than 12 years and NOT to use it when pregnant.

This creme is ideal for acne prone skin with its powerful moisturizing ingredients to help improve the appearance of blemished skin. Contains no parabens, artificial colorants or fragrances (4oz tin, $19.20)

Manuka Honey Propolis Soap
Honey and Propolis are reknown for their health benefits--especially for the skin. They have been combined to provide a moisturizing and gentle cleansing soap! (4oz bar, $7.90)

Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser
From the same collection that brings you the Skin Clear Cream comes this gentle cleaner that offers a deep cleaning action without irritating or damaging sensitive skin. Free of parabens and artificial colors. (4 oz bottle, $13.60)

Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner
Designed to clean the skin and shrink the size of pores, this product has been designed to condition your skin prior to applying moisturizers. It's been designed for a broad range of skin types and the new formula also contains Vitamin B3 and Beta Carotene to provide even more protection. (4oz bottle, $13.20)

I reviewed the Skin Clear Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser, and the Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner.

How Did I Use This Product?

I was pretty excited when my box of products arrived. I love beauty products and since I have been looking for a good facial cleansing set, I was eager to get started with these! As encouraged by each item, I did a test spot on the inside of my elbow to make sure I wouldn't have any allergies. After a recent experience where I had an allergic reaction for THREE MONTHS to a hair product (before I could figure out what was causing the problem), I take these trials seriously.

After waiting 48 hours, it was clear I had no allergies and I went ahead and gave it a go. I started by using the soap in the shower to not just cleanse myself, but to use as my lather for shaving my legs. I prefer to just use soap and it's difficult to find one with enough lather for what I want. The soap lathered right now and smelled heavenly!! I had a very good shave with it and it didn't appear to dry my skin out. The soap is dual toned--a clear-ish gold on one layer and a cream on the other layer. I lathered with the cream one for my legs!

Now it was time to see how the cleaner/toner/cream was going to work...I pulled my hair back from my face and was ready to go! I have healthy skin without skin sensitivities. This is my normal fresh from the shower face so you can see...
I have pretty good skin...and a cheesy smile.
The bottle recommends applying with hand or cotton pad in an upward motion on problem areas...so I started by doing one squirt on my hand. To see how much was needed, I stuck with a single squirt, rubbed my hands together and then applied it to my face. It was a light lather, but easily covered my whole face--my problem areas are my forehead and chin, so I rubbed in that area a little more. I waited the suggested two minutes, and then rinsed it off with lukewarm water. It felt very clean, but not dried out.
Just a dab...and a nice light lather for my whole silly face.
I followed the cleanser with the toner. The suggested method of use is to apply to a cotton ball and then rub on face and let dry, and follow with a moisturizer. Easy enough--and so I did just that. Only I went with 2 or 3 squirts. Then I simply rubbed it all over my face--especially my problem areas. I looked at the cotton ball to see if it grabbed any more dirt--and it had!

Once it was dry I decided to "moisturize me" (bwahahahah. Inside joke--make sure you leave a me a comment if you got it) with the new Skin Clear Cream.

Opening up the tin, I noticed that it wasn't quite what I was expecting. There was a clear lid layer with an attached little paddle about as long as my pinkie finger. Guessing this was for dipping, I did just that. The consistency was that of...well. Super thick cream. Kind of what I would expect if someone could "whip" honey into a cream. I decided to see how thick it was by dipping my finger onto the paddle and applying from there. I was surprised HOW much the tiny bit covered! I ended up scraping the paddle back in the container because I only needed a dime size amount to rub into my whole face and neck!

This method of using each of the four items has been my method the last few weeks. In the last two weeks I have been using the cleanser and toner in the morning AND evening. Sometimes just the toner. The cream I have used lightly on my face, but also on my neck where I had a HORRIBLE reaction that damaged my skin earlier this year.

What Are My Thoughts on This Product?

I am going to analyze each product individually...

#1 Manuka Honey Propolis Soap
Ingredients List: Sodium Palmitate, Sodium Cocate, Water, Glycerin, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Propolis extract, Manuka Honey, Tetrasodium EDTA, Pigment Yellow 1, 11680, 2512-29-0, EXT D&C yellow 5, Food red 1, 14700, 4548-53-2, FD&C red #4, Pigment yellow 42 FEOOH, 77492, 20344-49-4.

This soap smells HEAVENLY! Like serious;y. The bathroom smells incredible after I use it! So it's very pleasing to my senses to use it. Downside--the scent. I looked at the ingredients (see above) and fragrance was added which is a bummer, because I avoid products with added fragrance. I also noticed that while the color was a gorgeous golden, the soap does have dye in it to help it be that color. The soap doesn't have "good" ingredients like I prefer--as in no fragrance, no dyes, no artificial ingredients and such--and really the added things like honey and propolis don't really make it that much better than a typical sensitive skin soap.

Long story is that it DOES smell heavenly, and provides incredible moisturizing to my skin--without needing to follow up with lotion. I don't have sensitive skin or any current issues, so I can't tell you how it works for that...but I can tell you that when I started using it on my legs, my husband commented that my legs felt super smooth--more than normal. It was that noticeable. But because of the added dye and fragrance, my boys will not be able to use it with their skin allergies to these two items.

$7+ per bar is a bit steep for me, especially pairing it with the less than stellar ingredient list of things we try to avoid in our family. I know I won't be purchasing this soap in the future.

#2 Skin Clear Cream
Ingredients List: Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis), Leaf Juice*, Kawakawa (Macropiper Excelsum) Essential Water, Coconut (Cocos Nucifera) Oil*, Grape (Vitis Vinifera) Seed Oil, Honey (Manuka 20+), Lactobacillus/Salix Alba Bark Ferment Filtrate, Emulsifying Wax NF, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Organic Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) Extract, Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Root Extract, Manuka (Leptospermum Scoparium) Leaf Oil, Harakeke (Phormium Tenax) Leaf Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Polyaspartate, Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia) Oil, Roman Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis) Distillate, Sweet Almond (Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis) Oil, Niacimide, Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Flexuosus) Oil*, Aspen (Populus Adenopoda) Bark Extract, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Sorbic Acid, Zinc Oxide, Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) Root Extract*, Diheptyl Succinate, Capryloyl Glycerin  (*organic ingredient - 73% organic)

I am just your average consumer without any real skin issues, so I can't give you a raving "Oh this helped me so much!" kind of review. So here is what I can share. I am impressed with the ingredient list. I looked up the non-plant items and found them to all (from what I can see) to be rated very very low on the scale of toxicity. As in like, they are mostly plant derived. This is rare for a skin cream/lotion. I also like that the plant ingredients in this are all super good for your skin health!

*Please note that this product comes with the warning that it is NOT recommended for children under the age of 12. Nor is it recommended for pregnant women.

I found the cream to have a consistency of not quite a thick lotion, but not quite cream. It seemed to get thicker or thinner based on the temperature. Kind of like what coconut oil does. A little tiny dab went a LONG way and it LASTED. Like it put a "barrier" on my face of moisturizer. I had to keep adjusting how much I used to find a quantity that didn't feel...greasy. Even though it wasn't really like greasy. That's how it felt until I got the quantity right.

I loved how good it felt on my neck--especially on the side where I had the damage from my allergic reaction earlier this year. I didn't really use it for my face except for a tiny tab on my chin each night. But definitely on my neck and elbows. It really did the trick, but I couldn't say it was STUNNING results. Just very pleasing.

This tin is going to last me a VERY long time, making the price VERY worthwhile.

#3 Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser
Ingredient List: Aloe Juice, Lavender, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocopolyglucoside Tartrate, Sodium Cocopolyglucoside Citrate, Avena Sativa (Oat) Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Xanthan Gum, Vegetable Glycerin, Active Manuka Honey, Manuka Oil, Hydrolized Wheat Proteins, d-Calcium Pantothenate (Pro-Vitamin B5), Vitamin E, EDTA

I love that this is in a squirt bottle and that it's small enough to easily fit in my travel bags and medicine cabinet. I love the design of the little tin bottle. The ingredient list contains quite a few chemicals, but after checking them through a website that ranks the toxicity, most are just a 1 which is pretty much the best score you can get. The cleaner is also free from parabens and artificial colors which is another plus. I find these ingredients to be so much better than even a lot of the "good" cleaners out there promoting themselves as being natural.

I love that one squirt does my whole face in a good lather. I find that my face FEELS very fresh and clean when I'm done and I have found that it appears to be helping me manage my normal chin breakouts a bit better.

I'm not quite sure it would be worth the $13.60, but it is very hard to find a truly good and non-toxic cleaner these days. You get what you pay for, right? I don't know if I will buy another bottle yet...but we will see how my continued use helps me with my chin breakouts. Chin breakouts are so annoying.

#4 Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner
Ingredients List: Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice,*, Vegetable Glycerin, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Beta Carotene (Pro Vitamin A), White Willow (Salix Alba) Bark Extract, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Manuka (Leptospermum Scoparium) Leaf Essential Oil, Honey (Manuka 20+), Phenoxyethanol, Tamarind (Tamarindus Indica) Seed Extract, Cucumber (Cucumis Sativus) Fruit Extract, Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita-Matricaria) Flower Extract, Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) Leaf Extract*, Caprylyl Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Tetrasodium EDTA 

I haven't used toner since I was a teenager, so I actually forgot what it's supposed to be good for! Looking it up, it's recommended to use after cleansing the face and to help shrink pores. To help condition the skin for moisturizer. I always just remembered it to be the final step to make sure you got all your oils and dirt. LOL. Evidenced by the color of your cotton ball when you are done.

I think this one smelled good. AND it was not primarily alcohol as so many toners tend to be. My face didn't feel dried out after I used the toner. Oh and I used about 2-3 squirts on my cotton ball. I think it really is helping me out with maintaining a low oil level on my chin especially. My normal mid month breakouts--thanks to you know what--didn't seem to be as bad this past month! Yay!

Price wise--again. The $13.20 for 4 oz is a bit more than I'd like to pay...but with the ingredients being so much better and that it squirts a controlled amount, it may be worth it. I will again wait and see how my face does long term before deciding whether or not I will purchase another one!

Would I Recommend This Product?

Soap? No.
Skin Care Cream? Yes (unless you are pregnant).
Cleanser and Toner? Yes with reservations--until I learn how long it's going to last me and how my skin likes it long term.

I will try to remember and come back and add an update when I've used it longer. Will I continue to use these products until they are gone? Yes.

Want to Know More?

You have learned my thoughts about the Skin Clear Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Facial Cleanser, and the Manuka Honey, Tamarind and Manuka Oil Facial Toner available from Koru Naturals. I encourage you to visit my fellow review crew members to hear how they liked these products as well as the other three sets of products some were given to review!
Koru Naturals Review
To stay in touch of Koru Naturals, you can follow them on these social media outlets:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/korunaturals

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/korunaturals/

Once again Koru Naturals has provided some products with better ingredients to be used for a daily beauty regime! If you are seeking out a company that cares about what goes into their products, and I mean--seriously. the good kind of cares--than I encourage you to check out Koru Naturals!
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