Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A trip to the bird park!

This past weekend we cashed in Evan's birthday present from Gigi and Pops-a fun trip to the Sylvan Heights bird park! It's been on our bucket list for a while now, and I was happy to check it off during our last week here in Wilson. I'm glad to report that we all really enjoyed it! Like at the best places, it was nestled in the middle of nowhere, a diamond in the town of Scotland Neck. :-)
Feeding the parakeets
Our second pic as a family of five!
Bennett was most looking forward to seeing a pink flamingo, and though they didn't emit the most beautiful sound, I have to say they were pretty stunning standing on those straw legs of theirs. You can feed most of the birds there, but beware the Hawaiian Goose-it couldn't resist Bennett's sticky fingers. ;-)

Evan's favorite bird is the toucan, so he was on a mission to find one from the start! Not only did he see one but he also came home with a stuffed animal toucan which, I kid you not, we've been looking for FOREVER! He's happy as a peach with his toucan to snuggle with.
Bird park, check!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Science Shepherd-A Review

I could not have asked for a better springboard to teaching science than the Introductory Science curriculum from Science Shepherd. This is the first formal science curriculum that we've incoportated into our Kindergarten/1st grade classroom outside of unit studies and dare I say, we found a winner! Truly truly, I am so excited to share this review with you!!!
Science Shepherd Review

The Introductory Science program, for kids ages 6-11, covers a wide breadth of topics including meteorology, astronomy, oceanography and more over 35 weeks of lessons. Each video lesson is up to 5 minutes long, and all are accessible online for 12 months with this selection. The program is self paced but nicely lends itself to daily lessons.

Alongside the video course, you can purchase corresponding workbooks to reinforce the lessons taught. We received a copy of Workbook A(with an answer guide), which is intended for ages 6-8. The Level B workbook contains the same material but with some added content and is geared towards ages 9-11. Evan loves his workbook! On average there are usually two workbook pages per lesson, one page with questions about the material and the other with a fun activity like a word search or puzzle. The questions are given as short answer, multiple choice or "circle the answer" and are great for practicing simple comprehension with your early elementary student. There are samples of each workbook pages available online.
Science Shepherd Review

What I love about this product:
The format!!! Each video lesson is less that five minutes long, and the corresponding workbook pages are equally as non-intimidating-with no compromise to the content! This is so age appropriate for my 6 year old-it's an all around win! The material itself is thorough and engaging and it's format makes it so approachable for little ones. 
Here is a screenshot of one of the online video lessons
I was worried this program would be above Evan's level since he is at the very beginning of the age range, but I have been so pleasantly surprised! He loves doing his science work! The video interface is a win win and with the occasional dictation from mom, he has become almost independent over his workbook pages. This is not to say that the program itself is super simple since it has worked so well for my 6 year old, because as a 30 year old myself I've learned alongside him! I am so so glad we discovered Science Shepherd early on and will definitely consider their other products as we grow. 

It's no surprise that Evan especially loves the additional experiments included in the workbook. I love that they are equally addressed in the video tutorials. In the past I admit I've second guessed myself while conducting even very elementary level science experiments, often having to refer to google for extra help and pictures where I may have gone wrong or missed a step. Seeing the experiment firsthand, and demonstrated by these smart young ladies below, is so helpful. So far we have done every optional activity and have enjoyed them all! As a plus, most materials needed for the science experiments throughout the book can easily be found around your house. You can find a list of the video activities and supplies needed here

Product Details:
  • The Introductory Science video course is $35.
  • The Workbook Level A is $12.
  • The Workbook Level B is $15.
  • Answer keys are $3. 
I highly recommend Introductory Science as an early elementary science course as it is just that-an excellent and solid first foundation to the world of science. Click on the banner below to see what the fellow crew thought!
Science Shepherd Review
And, be sure to check out Science Shepherd on social media at the following links:

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ScienceShepherd/
Twitter -  https://twitter.com/scienceshepherd
Pinterest - ​ https://www.pinterest.com/scienceshepherd

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Daydream Believer

Presenting the sleepy snapshots...
Kept in perfect peace
All is right with the world.
This one loves a good snooze. I have to admit he's come by it honestly. :-)
Nap here, nap there,  anywhere!
Morning smush
Come on, is there anything sweeter? I just can't get enough of these sweet Smashy snuggles!

Thursday, May 19, 2016


It's about time for a house update! In one word-SOLD! We are so so thankful and honestly a bit shocked that our home sold in just 3 days, in it's very first weekend on the market. Words really don't begin to explain the relief, gratitude, excitement, and surprise of it all. Since then we've been going non stop, securing a new home sweet home and preparing to say goodbye to this one.

On the heels of a home appraisal yesterday, we had the first of three inspections done this morning and, though we know who is really in control, I can't help biting my nails through these next few weeks!

Without a doubt it's going to be a bitter and sweet transition. I have a beyond amazing mama network here in Wilson. We will miss our friends, our church, the sweet kiddos I've seen grow alongside my boys, and even our local Target employees! But as I've said to so many, I'll take a "see you later" over a goodbye anyday. And, we are all excited for the adventure ahead and eager to redeem some quality family time-Chris is excited to cut out an hour and a half each DAY from his commute!
I thank God every time I pull into our driveway past this sign!
From Wilson to Morrisville we go!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization-A Review

The Institute for Excellence in Writing has a reputation that speaks for itself, so I knew we would love the opportunity to review one of its quality products, Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. I vividly remember as a sophomore in high school standing before my english teacher to recite "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. I stumbled over many words as I tried to recall what I had just feverishly crammed into my brain over the previous lunch break and all too short review period. Somehow, I made it thru to the end with little bobbles and received an A for my quick and careless recitation. Ask me today to recite the popular poem, and I'm afraid I wouldn't make it much past that yellow wood in the first line! In fact, I'm sure the whole thing left me just as quickly as it came upon receiving my ill deserved grade. It is for this reason that I am so thankful to discover products like Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from IEW to instill in my children a love of the written word and the skill to commit it to memory from a young age. 

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

What is it?
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is a teaching tool for poetry memorization. For the purpose of this review, IEW generously provided us with the set including the teacher manual, student guide(eBook), and printed student book which is available separate from the set. We also received five poetry CDs beautifully contained in a nice leather case as well as access to seven audio MP3 resources, in addition to the DVD Nurturing Competent Communicators by Andrew Pudewa.
Here is a shot of the printed, spiral bound student book. The poems included in this guide are available with the e-book download that comes with the set, so you can print off as many sheets as you please!
From the start, the teacher guide speaks to the importance of nurturing competent communicators and poetry memorization in its introduction. A major point the text makes is that children build their linguistic and communication skills based on their environment, and that you can't get out of a child's mind something that's not in there to begin with. So if you fill your thoughts and environment with quality materials such as these, richly composed and saturated with culture and history, then you're well on the way to raising a competent communicator. This is so critical in our world today, because popular culture will be the teacher here if we are not-no thank you!

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization uses the mastery based Talent Education Method which, if you're familiar with any kind of music instruction, was developed by Dr. Schinichi Suzuki. Though there are 5 levels to the book, all children regardless of age start at level 1 and work up by their own pace. The accompanying audio CDs are an excellent resource aiding in the poetry memorization. We listen to them regular in the car as we run errands around town. Since I aim to homeschool classically, we do a good bit of memorization and I can't say enough  how helpful it is to have that audio component. As with most memory work there is a good deal of reputation involved(practice makes permanent!), and students should repeat each learned poem daily in addition to whichever new poem they are working on. Now if you have a little entertainer like myself, the daily recitation of learned poems with energetic expression is not at all dull or monotonous. Yes, it may take some time-but consider it time well invested! Since we are starting young at age 6, studying these poems often gives us the added benefit of reading and vocabulary practice. 

There are five levels in all, with the latter levels dealing mostly with speeches. The poems used were chosen for their humor and enjoyment, vocabulary, linguistic quality, cultural literacy and character/message. I'm looking forward to studying such rich and meaty works as "O Captain my Captain" by Walt Whitman, and the 1789 Abolition speech by Wilbur Wilberforce, and running into Lewis Carroll, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Frost on the way(to name a few). Students are also encouraged to add their own personal selections at the end of each level. In all, there are 96 poems and speeches.

How we used it:
I have loved using this curriculum with Evan! Admitedly, this subject falls into my "pocket" and has been so enjoyable to explore with my son. He memorizes quickly and well, and I've even begun to exercise my stiff memory muscles alongside him. We started at the beginning of this review period with the first poem of level one and have so far successfully memorized, to the letter and with complete accuracy, seven poems. As mentioned earlier, part of the mastery based approach is reciting these seven over and over again next to newly learned poems(the manual lays out a nice schedule) so when I say "to the letter" I mean I even think on them in my sleep lol! I am already looking forward to holding some type of formal recital/graduation party at the end of level one as the book recommends.

It is hard work and I am so proud of my little man for meeting the task with enthusiasm and skill. It's been fun to enjoy poetry together, and has been hands down a highlight of our homeschool year. The introduction of the teacher manual is right to note that young children are naturally drawn to silly, unusual and interesting things-and a good many poets have rightly capitalized on their curious and active imagination. Andrew Pudewa notes that " if children grow up laughing and loving poems, they are much more likely to mature into adults who can pursue and enjoy the classics." He later comments "children need broad experience with funny, enjoyable and dramatic poems so that they can later plumb the minds and hearts of the masters."

Here is Evan reciting the first poem he memorized, "Ooey Gooey."

And here's the first part of his favorite poem so far, "After the Party" by William Wise...party hat added for effect. :-)

The teacher manual also includes helpful and fun lesson enhancements in its appendix. These enhancements take you a step deeper and offer further learning opportunities and suggestions alongside each poem. For example, the suggestions with the poem "Ooey Gooey" include studying different kinds of worms, discussing how the mighty can fall, and learning about irony. Other enhancements include book suggestions, biographies, exploring poetic elements and more.

Product Details:

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review
The Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is sold for $65.00. Please note that a physical copy of the student book is sold separately from the set. And, with the purchase of the Teacher's Manual and CDs you can download the seven other MP3 files titled Mastery Learning, On Listening, On Reading, On Speaking, On Writing, Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding, and an audio file of Nurturing Competent Communicators.

Read more reviews from my fellow crew members by clicking the banner below!
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
And, check out the Institute for Excellence in Writing on social media by clicking the following links:

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iew  @IEW

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

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/user/iewtv

Monday, May 16, 2016

My backseat boys

Here's to never forgetting the view from here! Oh how I love my rear view mirror full of silly boys in baseball caps and baby shades. :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ARTistic Pursuits Inc.-A Review

If you're looking to expand your art horizons with more formal instruction, ARTistic Pursuits Inc. provides a complete, top quality art education for home and school. My little artists and I were so excited receive a copy of the Elementary K-3 Book One to review!
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
What is it?
In short, ARTistic Pursuits Inc. is a totally comprehensive art curriculum.  The K-3 Book One is beautifully laid out with colorful illustrations and clear, easy to understand art history and technique instruction. This early elementary book is geared towards ages five and up and contains 36 art lessons-just perfect if you figure one project a week over a 36 week school year. 
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
The K-3 Book One is thoughtfully laid out in three sections-what artists do, what artists see, and where we find art.  The first section "What Artists Do" covers basic activities artists engage in and think about when creating art, like imagining, looking, outlining shapes and drawing in color. The next section covers elements artists use like shape, line, space and texture. Lastly, "Where We Find Art" exposes children to ancient art and culture, drawing on inspiration from art found in caves, cathedrals and pyramids of the past. I've found these to be particularly engaging and fun topics to study with little boys who love to make believe in mummies and cavemen!
How we used it:
Each lesson is comprised of an introduction including a famous piece of artwork, project instructions, a "student gallery" picture, observation questions and finally, the project!

The very first lesson in the book is about composition. For this project Evan chose to piece together details from everyday life in the form of our house front. We were careful to include details like doorways and windows and things surrounding the house. After coloring the picture with watercolor crayons he went over it with water and a paintbrush to bring it to life-for our first lesson and first time using new materials, I was happy with the outcome!

I have so many favorites about this product, but my number one would be that it gives clear, precise direction and at the same time leaves plenty of space for creativity for the child to put his or her own unique stamp on it. Here Evan is below working on drawing a picture from a photograph, which we learned was first explored by Edgar Degas in the 1800's as he began to use photographs of ballerinas to study their movements. 
And, here is the product of our very first adventure in sculpturing with dry clay-a horse. I'd say it was a success! I've already learned so many new things and can't wait to continue through this book. This book is truly a treasure of an art curriculum, and contains in it everything you need to teach art at home with confidence and without compromise.
Product details:
There are several different levels of books offered by ARTistic Pursuits, Inc. including:
  • Early Elementary {grades K-3}
  • Elementary {grades 4-5}
  • Middle School {grades 6-8}
  • High School {grades 9-12}
  • Sculpture technique-Construct 
  • Sculpture technique-Model
The Early Elementary K-3 Book one is $47.95 and can be purchased through the ARTistic Pursuits Inc. website. Materials required for the Elementary K-3 Book One include pastels, watercolor crayons, ebony pencils and self hardening clay. You can find most of these at your local craft store, and there is also an Art Supply Pack(complete with easy carry tote) for each book sold on their website.  

 Read more reviews from my fellow crew members by clicking the banner below!
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
And, check out ARTistic Pursuits, Inc. on social media by clicking the following link:

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Kwik Stix-a Review for The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Attention mamas! If you have an art loving little but absolutely dread the prep and clean up of art supplies, the Kwik Stix 12 pk from The Pencil Grip, Inc. will be your new best friend!
Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review

What it is and how we used it:
The Kwix Stix 12 pk is a set of twelve solid, quick drying tempora paints that are simple to use and best of all-mess free! No water, brushes, or hair pulling required! These paints are advertised to dry with a paint like finish in 90 seconds, but I would say it doesn't even take that long. They are so easy to use. As the products says, just "uncap, twist, and paint!"

The Kwik Stix 12 pk comes nicely packaged in a variety of bright, vibrant colors, including white.  The individual paints cleverly resemble your traditional glue stick, and as such are easily handled by little fingers.
Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
We used them on a variety of surfaces including watercolor paper, computer paper and also a thicker, more textured cardboard. In my opinion, I'd more quickly describe them as leaving a pastel or oil crayon type finish over a painted one-but still very clean and colorful. They draw with a creamy and contained texture which is a nice departure from the average paintbrush that's been mishandled by four year old hands, perhaps dripping with water over your artwork-and the table!

I can't emphasize enough the value of a "no mess" product in the life of a mom with small children. Can I be completely honest and admit that I kind of dislike doing arts and crafts with my kids? Seriously, for the love of carpets everywhere...it's nerve-wracking! With little ones in particular, the time spent setting up and cleaning up(often full on bathing children) after art projects is just not worth it. But of course, we still do it anyway because it's fun for the kiddos and I promise I really do appreciate art. Having a product like this available makes art more accessible and less of a chore. It takes the anxiety away when asked those previously dreaded words "Mommy can we paint?!" Now I can confidently say "Sure, if you use the Kwik Stix!" :-)
On a technical note, I would point out that this product was a better fit for my preschooler over my rising first grader. The wider surface area at the tips lend themselves to basic, broad strokes over the more detailed drawings where you would want to fill in color with a finer tip. For example, both my boys and particularly Bennett enjoyed painting rainbows, bright suns, bubbled letters and patterns like zig zags with the Kwik Stix 12 pk. Since Evan is a little older and more mature in his drawings he found it challenging when trying to color in something like eyes on a face where the detail itself was smaller than the tip of the stix. This is not necessarily a complaint about the product but more of an observation of its ideal age group and use. 
In addition to receiving the Kwik Stix 12 pk to review, the company also generously included a Pencil Grip for us to try out as well.

Product Details:
You can purchase the Kwik Stix 12 pk for $11.99 from The Pencil Grip, Inc., and also via Amazon (with PRIME!).

Not only have they been fun to use in our own home, but I can see this product being a big hit with preschool and kindergarten teachers and classrooms. Not to mention a great birthday gift for an artsy child! To see what the my fellow crew thought, read more reviews by clicking on the banner below.
Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review
And check out The Pencil Grip, Inc. on social media by clicking the links below:

Website:  http://www.thepencilgrip.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thepencilgrip
Pinterest:   : https://www.pinterest.com/KwikStixPaint/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ThePencilGrip @ThePencilGrip

Monday, May 2, 2016

Evan's Scuba Dooby Doo party!

Zoinks!! We had the best time celebrating Evan's sixth birthday at our local Rec center pool. True to his love of dogs and swimming, Evan's theme was "Scooby Doo" and his pool party totally rocked. The boys had such a fun time splashing around with their friends, I only wish I took more pictures!


Present palooza!

Asher took a short swim in the pool too, and was a trooper for the whole party considering it was naptime! We are so thankful for the amazing friends we've made here in Wilson, and it's been so sweet for Evan, and then Bennett, to grow up alongside such awesome kiddos.

Last but not least, the traditional birthday video!

Evan is 6! from Rebecca Scott on Vimeo.