Thursday, February 25, 2016

A TOS Review: SimplyFun

SimplyFun Review

Storming the castle, evading the guards, capturing the flag, and being proclaimed the King's Climber! All this and more await you in this new adventure game! I'm reviewing Climbing Knights, one of four of SimplyFun new releases.

SimplyFun: Learning and Connecting through Play is much more than a gaming company. The company strives to find and create games that engage families in the learning process. The SimplyFun family believes that the greatest amount of learning can come through family play time. It gives parents the opportunity to be a partner in the process, not just a facilitator. It gives the entire family ownership of the learning journey, and it builds unity through fun and engaging time spent together.

The kids were very excited to receive this package. They were even more excited when they began to assemble it! This is no ordinary board game - it is an actual, 3 story castle!

Reading the instructions

Setting it up the first time

Lots of neat pieces!

Ready to play!

The premise of the game is to be the first knight to reach the top of the castle, retrieve your coat of arms, and scale back down the wall. But it's not as easy as it sounds - there are guards looking for you at every corner! And you have to make the trek not once, but two times!

The knights are flat magnetic pieces that attach to the sides of the castle. There are three dice to go with the game - one that controls the knight, and one to control the actions of each guard. You have to reason out which direction and turn you can take without being caught. This game focuses on spatial reasoning, logic, strategy and fine motor skills. It is a challenging and rewarding experience.

The boys especially enjoyed the time spent on Climbing Knights. Everyone got in on the action, though, and we all thought it was a lot of fun. There were a few tense moments, however, when the boys would argue over the rules of direction - there are no diagonal moves in this matter how cute you are, Caleb Ryan! There has been some history in this family of creating your own rules...and I'm afraid the younger generation has tried to do this as well. ;) However, the honor of being deemed the King's Climber until the next game is a reward they are willing to go to great lengths to achieve! Regardless of the potential for (all be it temporary) rifts in the family, I am sure this will be a game we enjoy for a very long time to come!

Climbing Knights is just one of four new games that SimplyFun released in January 2016.

SimplyFun Review

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SimplyFun Review

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A TOS Review:

HelpTeaching Review

Do you ever have trouble creating comprehensive questions for your students? If you don't purchase boxed curriculum and text books, this can sometimes be a difficult place to be. I know that we have used a lot of literature based curriculum in the past, and I have sometimes struggled to be certain what exactly the kids have learned from our material. While I believe in the Charlotte Mason approach wholeheartedly and know that a worksheet is not the only way to show proof of learning, I do think that quizzes and worksheets definitely have a place in the homeschool curriculum. That's why I was glad to have a chance to review the material found at I received use of the website through the Pro Plan. is a virtual teacher's closet full of worksheets, lessons, tests, quizzes, and so much more. You have the opportunity to use what has already been assembled, and you also have the ability to create your own worksheets and tests to fit the personal needs of your students. While the website has materials for every grade level, I focused on the 7th, 8th and 9th grade material.

I had Connor and Chloe sit with me and sift through the subjects and categories to see what they may be interested in. They both did some lessons and completed many worksheets. We looked primarily at science, language arts and literature. We also delved into some history, government, geography and social studies.

Some of the lessons were straightforward reading with some practice questions attached. Some had video links attached, and the kids really liked those lessons. At the end of the lesson, there would be a link to related worksheets, if any. We liked the lessons where there was continued practice.

They both agreed that having the worksheets that coincided with the lessons helped them retain information from the lesson longer. When choosing worksheets without premade lessons, I looked for things that I believed they had already covered, using this as a review time. They both came across some things that they didn't have any experience with, which left them both a little frustrated. There was nowhere for them to go to get the information. While I see this as a supplementary part to their education, I don't want to give them grades on things they have not yet been exposed to, so I wouldn't use this as primary curriculum. However, when the lessons had coinciding worksheets, I found the information thorough and helpful.

Chloe especially enjoyed the literature sheets. She reviewed some of her favorite novels, and then got to compare them to the movie. It was thought provoking for her, and a great jumping off point for a literary analysis paper on Mockingjay.

Connor just finished a semester of Constitution and Government, so I was glad to utilize the tests on here to evaluate his knowledge of the topic. He did very well - which didn't surprise me, since politics is his new favorite thing! It pleased him, too, to see how much he actually knew. Neither of the kids are used to receiving grades on a regular basis. We do lots of oral summaries, family discussion, and group question and answer times. So it was nice for them to see what they considered "proof" that they were learning these things!

I believe that can be a great help to any homeschool family. The Pro Plan gives you access to the entire website and can be a great help in finding gaps and strengths in your child's education. Check it out - it's worth it!

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HelpTeaching Review

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Happy Birthday to my love...

He is my best friend, my biggest supporter, my partner in this crazy life God has blessed us with. He is a hard worker, a loving husband, and a good daddy. I'm so very thankful for this man, and for the weekend celebrating him.

We got to have his birthday dinner Saturday night with our best friends. Steak, grilled veggies, stuffed jalapenos, mac and cheese, and pineapple upside down cake. Good food, great conversation. Today, we went to his parents' house to celebrate with his birthday buddy - our niece, Molly! We had a great time visiting and sharing the day.

So Happy Birthday, my love - I love you for life and longer!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A TOS Review: Home School in the Woods

I know it is only February, but this election year, November is already in the front of my mind and a main topic of conversation in our home. My two middle children (ages 7 and 11) are not as politically minded as our oldest two, but they still like to hear the conversations and ask lots of questions. So when I found out that Home School in the Woods had a lapbook called History Through the Ages Hands On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections up for review, I knew we wanted to get it!

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

Home School in the Woods is a family owned and operated company. They are veteran homeschoolers who have taken their personal experiences, experiments and research to develop timeline-themed learning and lapbooks. What is a lapbook, you ask? Well, lapbooks are a way of tying in all the information you have learned on a subject into a presentable, artistic and fun keepsake for you to look through again and again. All it takes are a few file folders, some construction paper, a printer, some tape and glue, coloring and writing utensils, and a little creativity. Everyone can have a hand in a project, or each student can make their own - giving it their own sense of style. It works for a variety of ages, which is ideal for larger families like ours.

We used to do lapbooks a few times a year, but I had somehow gotten away from them. Canon didn't remember many that he'd participated in, and Caleb had never done one with me here at home. So I was excited to jump back in, especially with the topic at hand!

The elections lap pak (we used the downloadable version) came with about 13 pages of reading material. It was a great jumping off place, and just enough information to fill Caleb up. Canon and I spent a little more time on different subjects, with Connor jumping in here and there to add his knowledgeable insights (he absolutely loves talking politics!).

The lap pak provided a Project Directions section that allowed you to know which project you could put together to coincide with your reading. This was very handy and I referenced it every day as we worked.

Along with the reading material and project directions, the lap pak came with all of the printable activities to cut and add to the lapbook. Some were fairly simple - just a foldover type cutout with a picture booklet on the front and a space to write out a definition. There was also a preprinted definition you could use if your child didn't like to write. I used some of each, given that the age span of the boys is significant. Other projects were a little more interactive. Caleb loved the piggy bank with the coin that slid in and out. Canon liked the National Elections page that looked like confetti rained down on the candidate.

There was plenty of cutting and pasting to go around! Mom even jumped in on a few projects to cut out more intricate pieces. We had a really good time putting these things together, and I think the boys benefitted from the small motor development. I'll admit, I get away from the "fun" activities at times to fit in all our curriculum, so this was a nice change of pace for them both. When we finished, I asked them how they liked doing a lapbook again, or for the first time for Caleb. They both said they had fun and when would we do another one? Success! We will definitely be purchasing another lapbook, and soon!

I am so glad we had the opportunity to review this product. The boys learned a lot about our government, and I know they will be paying a little more attention to the election with the knowledge they have gained helping them understand it all. If you are wanting to prepare your kids for this year's election and have some great conversations as you go, I highly recommend this lapbook.

To see what other bloggers thought of the product, just click here:

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Little More Birthday FUN!

We had so much fun at Cadie's birthday session today. This baby loves the camera - and the camera loves her, too!
She is a natural charmer, and I just can't get enough of these pictures!
Portrait Innovations has an awesome photography team. We've been using them for 3 years now, and I have been thrilled with every session. Check them out, they always have package deals...if you can keep yourself to just spending that small amount...which Kelly truly wishes I could!! But come on, have you seen this beautiful baby?!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

One year later...

My baby is a year old...and Uncle Jim's passing was a year ago this week. So much changes in such a short time. Life never stops, I've heard it said so many times. But when it's happening, you don't pay much attention. Taking the time tonight to just sit and remember. He truly was one of a kind. I'll love him forever.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Happy 1st Birthday, BUG!

Cadie Sean turned one year old just a few hours ago! I can't believe how quickly this year went by...she has brought me and the entire family - and all who know her, really - so much joy. She is an amazing little thing. She is happy, excitable, snuggly, giggly, just all around wonderful!!

Her party was Sunday after church. We had such a good time with family and friends celebrating this rainbow girl! We kept the rainbow theme going with streamers, balloons, her mobile, and the awesome cake Big Brother Connor made for her!

She had a great time. I am so thankful for this girl. I am so grateful for the blessing she is. I am happy that so many people agree that she is worth celebrating. It was a beautiful day!
Today was a quiet, stay at home kind of day. With all the celebrating from the weekend, we didn't do a lot. The kids sang to her. We played with all her new toys. We tried to get her to take some steps (when I say we, I mean the kids - I am so not ready for that!!), and she wore her crown to church!
So Happy Birthday, BUG! We love you to the moon - here's to many, many more beautiful birthdays my precious, precious girl!