Thursday, July 28, 2016

Inventor's Studio

My kiddos had the opportunity to review Spark Lab ~ Inventor's Studio. 

The contents of the box.

The idea cube.

Let the creating begin.....

Overall, this product was fun and my kiddos literally used every piece of material included to create until nothing was left. They really enjoyed using their imaginations to invent and create. For the price, $24.99 on Amazon, I really think that more building materials should have been included. I really hate to give unfavorable reviews but I feel that honesty is what my readers deserve. 

The popsicle sticks are cardboard, not wood. The paper squares, while colorful, are lightweight paper. 

One could easily go to the Dollar Store and purchase a basketful of materials equivalent to the ones in this kit that would not only be cheaper but provide a larger variety of materials. 

The Inventor's Guide was somewhat helpful but really not anything that contributed to what a child can naturally think to create on their own. The Inventor's Notebook is pretty much a booklet of blank and grid paper. 

I supplemented the contents of this kit with glue dots and Scotch Tape. 

I received this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Star Toaster ~ A Review

My kiddos having been reading and playing Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree, from Star Toaster. When a flood overtakes the Woodlands, Abba and his friends must rebuild what has been destroyed. The critters of the Woodlands loose their homes and some loose their family. Abba with the help of your child care for the Orphs "orphans" of the Woodlands. This app is geared for ages 7-13. 

Meet some of the Woodland friends  Abba the flying squirrel, Hattah the Hedgehog, Stot the White-Footed Mouse, and of course the precious baby orphs. 

What exactly is Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree?
It is a reading app and much more! If your child likes adventure, than listen up!! Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree is a 122 page online, interactive book. Abba, the flying squirrel is the narrator of the book. Abba cares for six orphaned orphs in his treehouse. As your child progresses in his/her reading, he/she will explore Stumptown where your child will continue an adventure in the form of a game. Your child will complete jobs and" educational" games, in order to care for orphs. Stars are the currency "monetary system" of the Woodlands. What are orphs you ask? Well, they are little orphaned creatures that are counting on your child to take them in and care for them. After completing jobs your child earns gold stars to purchase food, shelter, supplies and medicine to care for the orphs in their care. 

There are lessons and jobs in the following areas:
  • Math
  • Science
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Thinking Skills
  • Character
  • Life Skills
  • The Arts
There are 61 lessons and 136 jobs in the above areas of study. Parents are able to keep track of their child's progress. 

Your child will get "job training" and will get to complete "help wanted" ads. Each job earns a designated amount of stars. Your child can then complete the task and purchase stuff for the orphs. 

In Brainstormers Inc. your child will answer questions in order to earn stars "money" in order to help the orphs. 

The books is interactive, colorful, and illustrated. One of my kiddos described the book as "a book on steroids" because there is so much more than just words on each page. Star Toaster truly makes reading FUN. Difficult or unfamiliar vocabulary through the book is highlighted words so that your child can click on the word to get a definition and further explanation of the word. 

In Woodland Watchers your child will get Memory Tips and upcoming news. They will learn interesting science facts, be introduced to famous paintings, and get recipes for some very yummy treats!!

Job Training includes Character Traits. I love that not only does your child learn and spend time reading but they also learn important character traits. Character traits are highlighted in blue throughout the text. 

My 8, 10, and 13 year old daughter's used this app. My 10 year old by far enjoyed it the most. She is my animal lover and was totally into the book, games, and helping care for the orphs. My 8 year old also enjoyed this app. She is a reluctant reader but was encouraged to read so that she could help "the poor little orphs" in the Woodlands. My 13 year old absolutely loved when we reviewed the first Star Toaster app, Orphs of the Woodlands ~ The Treasure of Hightower but I think she has kind of outgrown the app. I would love to see Star Toaster come out with a version of this app that was geared more towards the pre-teen through early teen age group. I absolutely love everything about this app! 

Back in 2015 I reviewed Orphs of the Woodlands ~ The Treasure of Hightower

I would highly recommend this app to parents. This is truly an app that you will not mind your child spending lots of time working through. Star Toaster says that the app is geared for ages 7-13. In my opinion, this app appeals more to kiddos 7-10 years of age. 

To read more reviews click here.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Getting back to the basics of childhood.....

In a world inundated with electronic devices children are spending less and less time finding joy in the simple things. My 13 year old daughter is currently in the hospital and I am seeing firsthand the results of this generational deficit. My daughter is an AVID reader and averages over 100 novels a year. She loves puzzles and crafts too. Children today like instant gratification and are impatient when something takes too much time or is too difficult. While I greatly limit the time and content of my children's electronic usage I still see the effect. I witnessed this when Child Life brought in a friendship bracelet craft kit. The patterns were intricate and in my daughters words, "takes too long to figure out and produce the end result." This saddened me. I myself am a child of the 70's-80's have fond memories of things, such as friendship bracelets, gum chains, safety pin w/beads, etc..

Crafts and iPod

Fashion Plates

Mad Libs


We need to take the time to introduce and encourage our children to explore interests outside of their electronic devices. There is a whole world for them to explore and enjoy!!

Friday, July 22, 2016

When your normal routine comes to a halt....

Life's circumstances often times halt our routine without much warning. This is often true with families dealing with chronic health issues. Over the years I have come to learn that life often times doesn't give us advanced warning of detours or sudden halts ahead. This week our family had a sudden halt. At first I crumbled and my head was spinning. With the amazing support of friends, family, and lots of prayer we are beginning to see the beautiful rainbow beginning to appear after the storm. 

And then, just when you come up for a breathe, sometimes you are pushed right back down. Trials have a funny way of making us feel a vast array of emotions. From sadness, disappointment, and anger, to relief, resolution, and joy.........

Through it all I try so very hard to let myself cry and feel sorry for myself but then I "pull up my big girl panties" and choose JOY! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Heirloom Audio ~ A Review

History comes alive with Heirloom Audio Productions newest audio adventure, Beric The Briton. I received the physical CD set as well as digital downloads. G.A. Henty, dubbed history's master of storytelling, brings history alive in his books of daring expeditions and adventures. Heirloom Audio Productions philosophy of a Christ-centered history is refreshing amidst a world of humanistic thinking. Journey back into history as Beric The Briton, a boy chief, takes a prominent role when Britain is invaded by Roman legions. Experience invasion, war, and defeat. 

To be a true hero, you must be a true Christian. —G.A. Henty

The time is around AD 60 when the Romans invaded Great Britain. Follow Beric, chief of his tribe, as he encounters danger, triumph, defeat, and trials. The Britons remain confident in their battle tactics despite being defeating by the Romans time and again. Beric is eventually captured and taken to Nero's court to serve and be trained as a gladiator. He finds himself in the colosseum defending a young girl's life. Upon hearing rumors of someone by the name of Christus, Beric and his fellow comrades must confront their pagan roots. Julius proclaims, Christus, the one true king. Nero is enraged and condemns all Christians. Choices must be made....

This audio adventure is 2 1/2 hours in length. Along with the CD's the following were included in the form of downloads:
  • MP3 Download
  • E-Book
  • MP3 Soundtrack
  • Printable Cast Poster
  • Study Guide and Discussion
  • Inspirational Verse Poster
  • Live The Adventure Letter
  • Behind the Scenes Video

My 10 and 13 year old daughters and I listened to Beric The Briton. This is not the first audio adventure that we have enjoyed from Heirloom Audio. We were all captivated by the story as it unfolded. The subject matter was quite intense at times. This provided an amazing opportunity to talk about evil rulers and leaders, persecution, dying for ones faith, and God's faithfulness throughout history. 

Study Guide
The study guide is a FABULOUS complement to the audio drama CD's. I found the study guide to be extremely helpful in discussing the story with my children. The study guide is set up to aid the younger student in understanding the story as well as challenging the older student at a deeper level. The study questions are divided into three sections.

The Listening Well ~focuses on what was heard~

The Thinking Further ~challenges the child to think, draw conclusions, and speculate~

The Defining Words ~ defining unfamiliar vocabulary~

The study guide is available via computer download. 

A sampling of what the study guide has to offer...

The artwork throughout the study guide is AMAZING! Having the guide printed at a local printing shop is well worth the money. 

I cannot even begin to explain how amazing the study guide is. It's an excellent complement to the audio adventure. The discussion questions are thought provoking and aid in making sure that your child understands what is happening along the way. All of the extra material included helps create a fabulous unit study of Ancient Rome. There is a link in the guide to take a virtual tour of Ancient Rome. The site was fascinating and incredibly interesting. There are several recipes in the guide that my daughter's cannot wait to make. 

The amazing cast of voices include:

Final Thoughts
Heirloom Audio has produced yet another great audio adventure!!! Designed for children ages, 6-16, I would most definitely say that the 16 and above crowd will enjoy the adventure too. I have had the privilege of reviewing The Dragon And The RavenWith Lee In Virginia, and In Freedom's Cause. I would highly recommend these audio adventures. 

To read more reviews click here

Social Media

Beric The Briton Facebook Page

The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty Series Facebook Page

Heirloom Audio Productions Social Pages


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Writing with Sharon Watson ~ A Review

The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition is a great tool by Writing with Sharon Watson for high schoolers to hone in on their writing skills. This curriculum is intended for use with grades 9-12. Your high school student will learn four forms of nonfiction writing: exposition, narration, description, and persuasion.

We all know that when our children become teenagers they prefer to do schoolwork on their own. At least mine do! This curriculum is great in that it contains student-directed lessons. The curriculum is written in a conversational style, and though complex material is presented it is written in a way that is easy for the student to understand. There are 117 suggested daily lessons, complete instructions for 21 written assignments, and a year's worth of writing prompts. 

There are seven parts to the curriculum which include:
  1. Before You Write
  2. Persuasion
  3. Proofreading
  4. Exposition
  5. Description
  6. Narration
  7. Reference
Throughout the lessons your student will work on skills such as brainstorming, citing sources, organizing thoughts, strong introductions and conclusions, audience, common grammar mistakes, things to avoid/deadly mistakes, themes, plots, and so much more.

I used this curriculum with my 10th grader. He was less than pleased about having to "work" on writing during the summer. With that said, what he did work through, was quite helpful. Instead of completing a lot of writing he utilized the curriculum to review his own writing technique and skills. The curriculum gave him a great boost going into the new school year.

I love that each chapter begins with a witty quote. This curriculum does an amazing job at reaching the interests of teenagers by utilizing topics familiar and relevant to teenagers. My son was fascinated by the following statistics. Did you know that comic books are written at a 6th grade level, Reader's Digest on a 9th grade level, and TIME written on an 11th grade level. Did you know that you can grade your own writing with a technique called the Fog Index. The Fog Index uses sentence length and difficult words as its main criteria. In Chapter 12 ~ Process Writing (How-to) your student will be able to follow a six step process to grade their own writing.

My son was intrigued with the content in Chapter 7 ~ Persuasion -- Moral/Ethical.

"It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common 
in the world and moral courage so rare."
~Mark Twain~

In this chapter your student will learn how to effectively structure and write moral/ethical essays and letters.

Some of the highlight's that my son pointed out that he really liked was:

  • Writing takes time. For every 100 words you are assigned, set aside at least one hour. If any researching is needed, add more time. Rule of thumb: 100 words = 1 hour
  • When using quotes, readers need to know why you are using the quote or how the quote fits into your topic. 
  • What is good English? In writing it is "English that is appropriate for your audience."
  • E-mail etiquette and how to write various letters and notes. 
  • Know when to use loaded words and when to use neutral ones. 

The Teacher's Guide is thorough and gives you as the teacher the tools needed to successfully follow and grade your student's work. Not sure about how to grade? Well, not a problem. The teacher's guide does a fabulous job at explaining what a student needs to produce in order to make an A or an F. The guide details what is included in the student's toolbox. Every assignment has an exhaustive grading grid to help as you grade each assignment.

The teacher's guide provides an excellent reference guide which entails the Objectives for The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School. There are 12 objectives in the course, 5 attitude objectives, and 16 skills objectives. This is a great list to reference throughout the year as your student progresses through the material.

I would most definitely recommend this writing curriculum to others. Last year I had the opportunity to review another great writing curriculum by Writing with Sharon Watson entitled, Illuminating Literature ~ When World's Collide. Feel free to check out what I had to say about it.

To read more reviews click here.

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