Thursday, April 30, 2015

A TOS Review: Spelling You See

Spelling You See Review

Spelling You See is the newest curriculum from Demme Learning. Mr. Demme has taught all 4 of my children math with his curriculum Math U See for 9 years, and we are big, big fans of his methodology. I was excited to see his perspective on teaching spelling, especially since Connor has always struggled in this area. We reviewed Spelling You See: Level F, Ancient Achievements.

Spelling You See Review
The Instructor's Handbook ($14) gives you a breakdown of how the program works. It has all the skills they will learn laid out for you, answers to the skills pages, and all the dictation passages. The Student Package ($30) comes with two workbooks and a 10 pack of erasable colored pencils that they will use in their daily lessons.

Now this is not your typical spelling program, people. It is an excellent progression on language development versus typical grade level spelling lists. There is not a list of random words to be drilled over then tested on. The student is given a passage to work on for the week. They learn  to look at the passage and search for different things such as vowel chunks and bossy r, tricky y and silent letters. The creators of this program have broken down learning to spell into five developmental stages:
  1. Preliterate
  2. Phonetic
  3. Skill Development
  4. Word Extension
  5. Derivational Constancy
Ancient Achievements is the last book in the Skill Development stage. The student still works on vowel chunking and other word pieces, but the passages and words are getting much more challenging. The passages they are copying from are about interesting discoveries and historical finds from all over the world. You can look at these as great jumping off points for new history topics to research - a virtual rabbit hole, if you will. Connor had never heard of the the Cave of Lascaux and was interested in the history of the rubber ball - little pieces of history he may never have known about if it weren't for these passages.

Spelling has always come easy to me. Because of that, before I began homeschooling I always thought if you were a good reader you would automatically be a good speller. It wasn't long before I learned otherwise. This program has given Connor confidence in something he has struggled with from the beginning of his educational journey. There are no tests, no lists, no pressure. While he did think copying the same passage for four days was tedious, he was amazed with how many words he got correct on the first day of dictation. It was enough to keep him motivated and continue on to the next lessons with some assurance that it was reaping results that he could actually see.


Connor says: "It was fun. It helped me learning about vowel chunks. Once you remember where to place the vowel chunks, spelling the bigger words made a lot more sense!" This is coming from a child who has fought me since first grade on every spelling program we have ever used! He has grown in leaps and bounds in just a few short weeks. I can't wait to see how much better he gets in the coming summer months.

You can learn more about Spelling U See on these social media outlets:

See what other review crew members had to say about Spelling You See here:

Spelling You See Review

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Thursday, April 23, 2015


In the last year, Connor has been blessed by being a part of the Lighthouse Christian Chargers Football team. The new season begins in June, and he is getting very excited. He loves the sport, the challenge, the camaraderie, and the older boys he considers mentors.

This past month, Canon has benefited from the same kind of brotherhood - the senior Charger put on a 5 week flag football session, coaching and mentoring our 4th-6th grade boys. It's been quite a time for him!

When the first practice convened, one of the boys came and talked to me. He said when they began, he asked Canon what he liked to do: catch, throw, run, defend? He laughed when he told me Canon's response: "Canon told me, 'Don't give me the ball - I will disappoint you every time.' So I told him we would put him on defense. He's a card, Mrs. Quinn!"

Yes. Yes, he certainly is. I am so glad these young men are taking time out of their lives to be coaching these boys. The boys love getting to "hang" with the big guys, and they are really learning a lot. Canon hasn't ever cared much for team sports. He is much more comfortable doing his own thing. But this session of flag football has been so good for him. He told his Aunt Ariel last night that he still didn't like watching football, but he LOVES playing it now. It made me so happy to hear, and I know it's because of his coaches.

These young men are doing so much more than coaching. They are mentors that I am proud for my boys to have. They are hard working, fun loving, god fearing young men, and they are truly making a difference in the lives of my boy - a difference that he won't soon forget, and someday may pass on when the opportunity arises. Because he will be able to look back and remember that a few very cool football players saw a goofy boy making grass whistles on the sideline and made sure to include him and teach him how to play a game he learned to love. And I'll be just as proud of him then as I am now.


Friday, April 17, 2015

A TOS Review: Orphs of the Woodlands

Star Toaster Review

I love reading. It is one of my biggest joys to be drawn into a story that completely captures my imagination and leaves me wanting to revisit again and again and again. This is why I was extremely excited to review Star Toaster's new online program, Orphs of the Woodlands. Usually, if there is something to try on the computer, the kids are all for it. I love it when you can disguise quality learning into fun and games. It's what I like to call Ninja Homeschooling! LOL! 

Orphs of the Woodlands is a reading/critical thinking, interactive experience targeting students in grades 4-7. The website describes it as "an educational journey that combines a reading adventure, an academic treasure and a rewarding game" all woven into one program. Your student will not only be immersed into an engaging and exciting story, but also learn many valuable lessons in  math, science, grammar, vocabulary, thinking skills, character, life skills, the arts, and much more.

I had Connor, Chloe and Canon all try the program out. I sat with each of them for his/her first lesson and read along silently. I was pulled in myself! The story is about a little squirrel who lives alone in the woods. He is recruited to become a spy against the night creatures, has to rescue orphans and return them to their homeland, Ivythwaite. 

There are many interactive components to the reading section. As your student reads, he will likely come across many unfamiliar words. Several of the vocabulary words are highlighted in RED. As they pass the cursor over these words, a pop-up box will appear and give your child the definition. How neat is that? 

Occasionally, there will be a button or graphic to push while you are reading that will play sound effects or a piece of a song. I found it appealing to those whose attention may wander, and it added a bit of fun to the reading experience. The graphics are beautiful, the maps are detailed, the characters are so engaging...I really love this program!

Star Toaster Review
A screenshot of your land. You are required to tend your land, keep house, and care for your orphans.

When I sat with Canon, I could see him getting anxious. He is not an avid reader, and I could tell he was not going to be easily engaged. There were about 30 pages for the first read, which I felt to be a little long for a 10-year-old boy. The books that he typically reads have chapters that usually range from about 12-20 pages. I saw him getting exasperated when he would finish a page only to find he wasn't done with the lesson yet. I think for his age group, there should have been shorter chapters in order to keep him excited about coming back. By the time he finished the reading portion, he wasn't very excited to play the games or go on any missions. 

Connor actually enjoyed the first chapter. He felt the first few games should have been more rewarding, though. It took him quite a bit of time to earn enough to get anything accomplished, and he was losing interest by chapter six because he couldn't do what he was wanting to do quickly enough. And there was no way to retry a game or mission that he hadn't done well on, therefore no way to earn more stars. He hasn't played it in over a week, but said today that he was going to check on his orphans in the morning. So I guess he just needed a break and is ready to jump back in.

Chloe, on the other hand, ate it up! She loves the story, characters, games, missions, all of it! She has stayed very dedicated to this story, and it has kept her attention thoroughly. We just finished our Language Arts curriculum for the year today, and the first thing she said was, "Yay! Now I can play Orphs quicker every day!!!" 

Star Toaster Review

For me, seeing my kids excited about something that is teaching them valuable lessons is very rewarding. I have heard Chloe sharing interesting quotes from famous people over the weeks, and then telling them that she learned them from Orphs. There is character building qualities about this program that truly blesses my heart! Also, another thing I love is that Star Toaster keeps me updated with weekly progress reports emailed to me on every child. This is such a great tool! I can't tell you how often I get behind on grading, so to have one less thing I have to remember to check is wonderful. It emails me, and I can see exactly where they are in the story, how many stars they've earned, what skills have been covered, and so much more. I am loving what I am seeing!

A 60-day subscription for up to 3 kids is $19.99, with a 30-day extension for $6.99. They are offering a free trial on the first 100 pages of Orphs right now! Click the link below to learn more.

Star Toaster Review

I am excited to see this company grow and offer more great stories in the future. It is so much more than a storybook - it is truly a learning adventure! 

You can keep up with all the latest info and goings-on of Star Toaster on any of these social media outlets:

If you would like to see what other reviewers on the Crew thought about StarToaster, click on the link below!

Star Toaster Review

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Blue and Gold

Okay, so I'm a little late getting this one done. Cut me some slack, I have a newborn.

Anyhoo, the boys had a great Blue and Gold banquet back in February. Mom, Dad, Bob and Phoebe all made it, and that made it an extra special night. They boys really enjoy their time as scouts, and it was the first time they've gotten to share it with their grandparents.

Both boys achieved rank. Caleb earned his Tiger, and Canon earned his Webelo. It's hard to believe this time next year, Canon will be ready to cross over into boy scouts! I think he'll continue this scouting journey for a long time to come - hopefully striving for Eagle one day.

                My little Tiger!             My little man earning his Webelo

Caleb also had a surprise that brought a huge smile to his face. He was the winner of the Pinewood Derby race in the Tiger Den and got a shiny little trophy. He was so stoked!

Both boys got to put on skits with their dens. While we, the audience, didn't always know exactly what was going on, the boys were sure having a grand ole time! They laughed so hard at their own jokes that we laughed along with them, even when we had no clue what was happening! I loved watching them both. Canon is such a ham, and he has a real talent for comedy. He doesn't realize it yet, but I hope he goes back to theater one day. He truly shines on the stage. Caleb steals the spotlight every chance he gets, and I see people drawn to him because of his happy energy. They are both growing up, becoming more responsible, learning more every day. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am to be their mommy. I have six amazing kids who I know God has great plans for. He has barely even begun the good works in them. I can't wait to watch their stories unfold.


Tiger cubs - I never did figure out what the skit was!

Canon was a court jester in one skit and a fish in another. They were actually pretty funny!

A TOS Review: Memoria Press - Classical Reading and Cursive

Memoria Press Review

Memoria Press' New American Cursive Workbook 1 is a beginning program for first graders. It is a basic introductory workbook that takes your student through the entire alphabet, teaching them the basic strokes and connections of cursive lettering in a fun way. The book is just over 100 pages, including the easy to use teacher's guide.

Caleb is a very busy first grade boy. He doesn't like to sit long, desk work is killer on him, and he groans in agony when I have him do copywork. His print is actually pretty decent, despite all these things. However, he does flip some letters like b and d and has a hard time discerning one from another at times. Several weeks ago at church, one of the verses on the screens was written in cursive. He asked me what it said because he couldn't read it at all. I thought, what a shame that he can't read cursive. There are so many benefits to writing and reading cursive handwriting, and I feel it is becoming a lost artform. What is going to happen if we allow many generations to skip learning cursive? It seems a sad, maybe even dangerous choice, especially considering so many of our historical documents are written in cursive.

I had never thought of starting cursive handwriting in first grade. I did a year of cursive with the older kids when they were in third grade, then let them choose which they would use - they all chose print. Historically, cursive was taught first or alongside print handwriting so it wouldn't be so difficult to approach. Once they've been using print for a number of years, many students have trouble transitioning to cursive. So when I saw this review come up from Memoria Press, I was glad to give it a go. I thought Caleb would be more receptive to learning then continue using cursive if we used New American Cursive starting in first grade.

Memoria Press Review

The New American Cursive program is a gentle and easy way to teach  young child their cursive letters. It is very basic lettering, not too showy, and doesn't use as many strokes that a typical cursive plan uses. It starts with some great basic instruction regarding the three p's:
  1. Posture
  2. Pencil holding Position
  3. Paper Placement
The student is led through the instruction by Mr. Meercat. He appears and sometimes gives helpful reminders on pencil grip or starting positions. The lessons are short and consist of three sections:
  1. Instruction - each lesson focuses on how to form one letter. 
  2. Practice - tracing the letter of the day, and then freehanding the letter twice repeating multiple times
  3.  Play - Exercises and  a free space to draw artwork or practice writing and connecting letters.
 Caleb usually can get through a lesson in about 10 minutes. That's a bonus for us! :) We have only been doing this workbook for a few weeks, and Caleb can already connect letters to form short words. He began with very little interest and pretty shaky handwriting. Now he grabs his cursive workbook as one of the first things he works on for the day, and I think he has gotten much more confident in his ability to write. I am pleased with what I've seen so far, and I can't wait to see more improvement in Caleb's handwriting. 
Memoria Press puts out many different types of curriculum, and our Review Crew has blogged about a few of them. To read up on what they thought about the products, click the link below:

Memoria Press Review

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Resurrection Weekend

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

I hope your weekend was as full of blessings as ours. We had a wonderful time at our church activities Saturday afternoon, then had dinner with my family that night. We had a beautiful service Sunday morning, then lunch with Kelly's side in the afternoon. Then Sunday night was Crossway's concert, "Overwhelmed", where all our family besides the two littles were part of the drama. It was a busy weekend, but so very happy. All of it was a blessing to my heart, and I was thrilled to have all the reminders of what Christ did for me, personally, on that cross. Even more so, that the debt is paid, and that He is coming again! Praise you, Jesus!!

The kids had a blast with all the activities. Crossway did something a little different this year. They had us walk in Jesus' footsteps as a family, then go for a little egg hunt. It's not a big thing to me that churches have egg hunts. I love watching the kids scramble and squeal in excitement. But honestly, I do sometimes feel that the true meaning of the resurrection is paled because of it. However, this year it was not so at Crossway.

We began our walk with Palm Sunday. The kids were encouraged to color giant palm branches laid out on the floors on blankets. While they colored, the story of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem was told. Some teenagers added some fun by asking the kids what they would have been shouting, and then they taught them some cheers that they would have been chanting! "Jesus, Jesus, He's our man! If He can't do it, no one can!" LOL, it was pretty funny watching Canon roll his eyes and inform the girls that he was NOT going to color - or cheer!

Jesus' cheerleaders! 

The next room we entered portrayed the Last Supper. It was dimly lit with a long, low table set under a canopy. The kids were each handed some bread to eat, and then told about how Jesus came to Earth to be a servant and that He led by example and washed His disciples' feet. Then the storytellers had the families wash each others' hands and feet. What an awesome moment! It was very simple, not solemn and holy exactly, but still very touching to my mama heart. Seeing Kelly use a wet wipe and washing our children (I was wearing Cadie, so couldn't really participate well) was so sweet to me. They giggled when it was their turn to wash Daddy's hands, but it was still really cool.

Then we entered the Garden of Gethsemane. The storyteller had the kids lie down like they'd fallen asleep, and then a Roman guard came in and arrested Jesus! Castle got a little upset, but he made it through.

Castle didn't want to go to sleep! LOL!

We then walked the difficult road to Golgotha. The kids heard how our savior was beaten and mocked, and they touched a crown of thorns. They couldn't believe how long and sharp the thorns were...things were really becoming real to them. They were handed a piece of candy that was very sour...but as they sucked on it, it became sweet. And we walked out to see the sweet victory that was awaiting us.

And then, glory of glories, we came to the tomb! Joseph of Aramathea and Mary Magdalene met us there, and they were overjoyed to let us enter the empty tomb. The kids were told to take a sheet of paper, right down a sin they had been struggling with, and place it in a bowl of water. When they stirred it once, the paper completely dissolved, reminding them that when we confess our sins, God makes them disappear as if they never existed. He separates us from our sins as far as the east is from the west. Hallelujah, we are so grateful!

As we finished up the tour, they were told to go and hunt for their treasures, but to remember the "sweetest" thing about Easter is Jesus. I loved this egg hunt more than any other we've ever done. It was quieter, less crowded, and they only got 8 eggs apiece. But their deeper understanding of the crucifixion and resurrection was evident by their smiles and chatter.

The family gatherings were a blast this weekend, too. I love that we can get together and enjoy one another. It's not always been like that, at least on my side. There have been years of tension and frustration, hurt feelings and more. But God has done a work in us, and I'm thankful for the restoring power of Jesus' love. We are family, and good or bad, we are there for one another. I pray our children see that, and that they grow closer every day, every year, far into their adult lives. I love my sisters and parents, and I'm glad we make the time to gather together. It's much easier for Mom and Dad to just have a few of the kids at a time, but they do enjoy having us all under one roof...if only for short periods of time! ;)

Casey, Tiff and the girls joined us for Sunday lunch. It's always a treat having them all. It used to be the norm, but busy lives have made it much less often the last year or two. I think this was the second time we've had them over since the girls were born! Unfortunately, it started raining before we finished lunch, so the kids had to make do with hiding their eggs indoors. Not nearly as much fun, but hey, it's for the candy! They had a great time, and it ended all too soon since we had to get to church for the concert.

They made bracelets
Best Friends Bracelets

I am so glad Mrs. Tess and Bryan asked our family to participate in the drama. Connor wasn't the most willing participant at first, but he ended up having fun with it. I was the woman at the well, Kelly was a disciple, Chloe was a mourner for Jairus' daughter, Connor was a follower of Christ, and Canon and Caleb were part of the "little children" who Jesus said "Let [them] come to me." We were only in the beginning part of the concert, so when we finished up, we went and changed our costumes and went to find seats - not an easy task. The church was packed to overflowing! So we snuck into the cry room and watched from there. (Ssshhh, don't tell on us!) Brother Mark put together a beautiful program as usual. I am honored to be a part of a church and choir who praises the Lord with such passion, dedication and abandon. I haven't been as active in choir this year, first for being so late in the pregnancy, then having a newborn. I can not wait to get back and feel the Spirit's presence when we raise our voices to Him together.

So, there is our Resurrection Weekend review. I pray that you each had a taste of the bitter and the sweet. We can not take joy in our salvation without remembering the price Jesus paid for it. And we are all the better for remembering. Blessings!

Friday, April 3, 2015

It's going too fast!!!

Stop it. Stop it right now.

Seriously, you need to stop. You are growing too fast. Mommy can't stand it. So just stop right here, right now...

Both of you! :O

Thursday, April 2, 2015

April Fools!

Awww, the faces of innocence...right?

No, sirree, these are the faces of intense mischief and mayhem, spawned by the master himself:

Not me, the guy on the right!!

Oh, yes, they look precious, but these little minions have become major pranksters this week, all due to the craziness of April 1st. Who in the world came up with April Fool's Day, anyway? I tell you what, he is not my favorite guy! The madness began yesterday, when the plotting and whispering and hysterical giggling ensued. Unbeknownst to me, Connor and Chloe have been pinning multiple prank ideas on their Pinterest boards for weeks (yes, my fault for introducing them to the wonderful world of Pinterest - just goes to show you that anything good and pure can become perverted in the wrong hands...) And boy, did they find some humdingers!

Kelly started it all yesterday morning by trying to trick Canon and Caleb that co-op had officially changed their start time from noon to 9am. It was almost 9, and the boys started scrambling. I looked at Kelly, asked him if he realized it was March 31, and he just groaned. No, he thought it was the 1st. Oh, well, he got a rise out of them - which is exactly what they wanted!

So they all got in on the ... fun ... today. (No, not me. I don't find it much fun, because most of their pranks involve messes. And I'm usually the one to clean up the messes.) 
  • Caleb balanced a schoolbox on the door, and it crashed down on Connor's head.
  • Connor planted a cup of water upside down on the counter and got Chloe to pick it up.
  • Canon greased the doorknobs with vaseline.
  • Chloe tricked the boys into going outside for something, and locked them out of the house in the pouring rain.
  • Connor put poppies under the toilet seat and koolaid in the shower head.
By the time Kelly was leaving for work and I caught Canon headed to Chloe's room with the bottle of maple syrup, I called the day's "festivities" to an end!! (Who knows what he was planning at that point!)

It is just past midnight, and am I glad this holiday has ended. Unfortunately, I am afraid the practical joke bug may carry on past the one selected day...ugh! Happy April 2nd, everyone! :)