Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pencil Grip and Safety Scissors REVIEW

The Pencil Grip, Inc.
The Pencil Grip, Inc. is an innovative company with lots of fun products.  We were so happy to be able to review The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit.  I had my eye on the pencil grips for some time and just never got around to trying them out.  This review opportunity was just perfect for us. The grips were invented in 1992 by an educational therapist.
The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit
Steps 1,2, and 3 from left to right

My son has always had a good pencil grip but he struggles with writing and extreme fatigue in his hand.  I wondered if the grips would help him at all.  My emerging writer K4 daughter needs a little help with her pencil grip and again, the kit fits the bill.  My K4 daughter also struggles with her scissor mastery so getting to try the safety scissors out too was a nice bonus.

Little Bug using the Crossover Grip
The pencil grip training kit consists of 3 different grips.  In step 1 the Crossover Grip is used for training.  It provides the maximum support for proper positioning.  In step 2 the Pinch Grip is considered the transition grip that allows structure and freedom and for the user to see how they are holding their pencil (this one is currently my son's favorite to use).  In step 3 the Pencil Grip Original is considered the graduating grip. It can be used forever for comfort and pencil control. There are free pdf downloads available on the website that include instructions on how to use the grips, how to choose the right one, a chart showing the proper way to hold a pencil, and others.

This is the Pencil Grip Original

This is the Pinch Grip and my son's favorite
The pencil grips are made of a soft, but sturdy silicone type material and really are comfortable to use.  They are latex and phthalate free.  They accommodate both right and left-handed writers and work for young children all the way to adult.  I'm sure something like this would have helped me when I was younger.  I always had a huge callous on the inside part of my index finger from writing.  It's still kind of there! My son fights with fatigue in his hand and I had hoped these might help.  He said it does help his hand feel better and it does seem to help with his handwriting.

Safe Safety Scissors

The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors is surely a unique concept.  I REALLY like that the child CANNOT cut themselves with these scissors (the blades are pretty sharp!).  There is no way to get their little fingers caught in the blades.  There is a clear shield that completely covers the bottom blade and goes all the way up to the upper blade when the safety scissors are in the open position.  I found the scissors to be a little awkward to use and I felt my daughter (who struggles with scissor use anyway) also had a tough time with them.  The shield kind of messed with her mind on how to hold the scissors and she kept trying to use them upside down.  I think as her skills improve she will not have such a hard time.

My 13-year-old son did not think they safety scissors were awkward and did not feel like he had to struggle to use them (I sort of disagree, see video below).  The scissors are for ages 3 years +.  There is also a yellow "training lever" that automatically causes the scissors to open after being squeezed.  The lever can also be placed in the "closed" position for those children that do not need the extra aid.



I'm not completely sold on The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors, but I do like the idea of them.  The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit was a win and I would definitely recommend it if you have students that need to not only improve their grip but also if they have problems like my son with hand fatigue.

You can connect with The Pencil Grip, Inc. on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and PINTEREST.

Please take the time to also check out the other reviews on these products to get some other opinions on their use and likeability.

Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading Eggs REVIEW

Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs*

Memories, I remember when my now 13-year-old son used Reading Eggs.  We loved it then and we love it now. What's great is that until November 30, 2017, you can get a FREE 4-week trial.  I was excited for the opportunity to review this program for my K4 student. This is a digital online program. You access it through your personal login and password on a computer, Android device or even an app on iTunes for your iPhone or iPad.  We use it both on our mini iPad and laptop computer.

Reading Eggs is an online reading program that has been heavily researched to use a multi-sensory approach to teaching kids age 2 to 13 how to read and improve their reading skills. It uses the 5 essential keys to reading success:
  • phonemic awareness
  • phonics
  • vocabulary
  • reading comprehension
  • fluency

Your child will progress through "maps" in a sequential process.  In Reading Eggs there are 12 map stations with 10 lessons in each station.  Older lessons can always be done again for review or fun.  Little Bug has no problems advancing through the lessons and following instructions pretty well.  Every now and then she will get a little click happy and I will need to redirect her back to the lesson.  She is really enjoying going through the lessons.The animated characters and fun responses keep her engaged in the program and make it a fun game.  She doesn't even realize she is doing "school."

She is continuing to review her letter sounds and even starting to learn some sight words!  She is learning her beginning letter sounds and ending letter sounds.  I really like how much more advanced the program has become from about 8 years ago or so.  It tracks her progress and lets me know her approximate reading age, known sight words and what lesson she is on.

The program also works on "levels."  Reading Eggs Junior is for ages 2-4, Reading Eggs is for ages 3-7, and Reading Eggspress is for ages 7-13.  I like that she can use and have access to both Reading Eggs Junior and Reading Eggs.  

As she progresses there will be more for her to do.  She will continue reading (there are over 2000 levelled books!), earning rewards (can use rewards for fun games and accessories for avatar) and even completing quizzes on what she has learned (quizzes after every 10 lessons).


Bonus Material from Parent Dashboard

Reading Eggs includes 120 online reading lessons (that are broken down into 3 different levels for beginning, emerging, and early readers), 20 Storyland lessons, 96 spelling lessons and Story Factory where they learn to write their own stories!  If all this is not enough then add in downloadable activity sheets and parent homeschool guides for Kindergarten to 2nd grade.  The kindergarten lesson plan for Little Bug includes 36 weeks of lessons covering 1-2 lessons per week.

Activity Sheets
Coloring Activity Sheets

36 week lesson plan guide
You really have nothing to lose with the free 4-week trial.  Try it and you will not be disappointed.  It is a really fun and engaging online reading program for the kids and they get to learn reading at their own pace and with confidence. We definitely think this program is a win for us and recommend that you try it.

Reading Eggs

You can connect with Reading Eggs on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and YOUTUBE.  Don't forget to take advantage of the free 4-week trial available through November 30, 2017.

Please take the time to check out the other reviews on the product through the link below.

Reading Eggs

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Are Your Chickens Molting?

Poor Mist is going through such a hard molt this season.  She will be 4 years old in February.  Chickens molt (shed their feathers) generally once a year and generally in the fall.  I always know when the molting begins because it really does look like your chicken sneezed REALLY hard and blew all their feathers out.  It looks like a feather bomb on the bottom of the coop floor.

If you have new pullets or cockerels they will generally not molt until their second year, but I have had newbies molt their first year.  It is hard and stressful on the hens and they generally will stop laying when they molt.  They need all their energy and protein to grow back new feathers.

It is wise to feed your chickens a diet higher in protein during this time.  Give them scrambled eggs, mealworms, black oil sunflower seeds, or better yet some meat bird feed that contains about 22% protein.  They generally do not want to be held or bothered with since it is also painful when their pin feathers are growing in.  Rest assured, they will emerge with beautiful plumage when they are done.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Brinkman Adventures REVIEW

Brinkman Adventures
We really enjoy listening to audio dramas so when I had the chance to review the Brinkman Adventures Season 4 I was excited. I had never heard of Brinkman Adventures.  After looking at their website I was even more intrigued since their audio dramas are based on true missionary stories as told by the fictional Brinkman family (but even they are based off a real family).  Not only does each episode teach you a key bible theme but you also learn about real life missionaries.

There are currently 5 seasons available with a 6th one on the way.  It's very refreshing to listen to the family dynamics of the Brinkman family while also following the exciting lives and adventures of the missionaries involved in each episode. These missionary stories will not dissapoint.  There are warnings on some of the episodes for those 10 and under to have a parent present due to some scary incidents in the episode.  There are 12 episodes in Season 4 that include
  • A Paradise Lost - God is in Control
  • Remember Nhu - Perseverance
  • Aisha's Fear - Overcoming Fear with Love
  • Heart Song - Tenacious Faith
  • The Crashed Kitchen - God Doesn't Make Mistakes
  • Crisis in the Congo - People over Projects
  • The Mysterious Palm Feller - Confronting Evil
  • War of the Raccoons - Faithfulness in Work
  • The Five Guys - Listening to God
  • Toughest Man - Surrendering Everything
  • Cambodian Quest - Going Deeper with God
  • What Brings Us Together - Glorifying God
I listed the bible themes after each title.  The Brinkman Adventures website also lists who is featured (the Brinkman family and/or missionaries involved) and the region they are in. I absolutely love that the stories are about real life missionaries.  You learn God is in control when the Brinkmans annual family camp is interrupted by the dam breaking and their campground being flooded out. Not only are their camp plans diverted but mom, Susan, who is not due with the baby for another month delivers baby Micah earlier than planned.  All through the episode there are obstacles to overcome.  Each challenge teaches them that though we have plans and would like to be in control of everything we do, God truly is the one in control and when we don't understand our circumstances, God has it covered. Despite the flood and a washed out bridge, God gives them ideas to carry on with the camp anyway.  When Peter destroys the eggs, they still have baked oatmeal.  When mom goes in to labor, there is a midwife among them to help deliver the baby. The real life missinary Carl Ralston is in this episode but doesn't make it to the camp until the very end of the camp due to the weather and road conditions, but as always with God's timing, he is right on time with a timely message for the campers. God is always with us, we can trush him (Phil 4:6-7).

Each episode is loaded with intrigued, excitement and lessons learned.  We need more wholesome entertainment like this that sows the word of God into our children's hearts.  The character lessons learned in each episode are refreshing and appreciated.  When Kitri doesn't really want to go to Cambodia in Cambodian Quest but feels she has to, she soon learns that sharing God's love can be so rewarding. Her and her mother travel to Cambodia to the Remembering Nhu home to help deliver sewing machines for the girls. Despite her attitude she soon softens when she sees God's love being shared in the caring for the girls and a sick woman's baby.  It changes her and her focus. The excitement in this episode ramps up when one of the girl's previous "owner" finds out she is at the house and seeks her out to get her back.  You must listen to this episode to find out if they make it safely back to the Remember Nhu house.

I thought it was so cool that after listening to the Remembering Nhu episode which is about rescuing girls out of slavery in Cambodia that the girl who played Nhu was the real life Nhu! Nhu was a 13 year old girl sold into slavery.  Back in the states Carl Ralston is going to college and hears a story about Nhu and has a heart to go to Cambodia to rescue girls out of slavery. The end result of this fascinating story is Nhu opening the Remember Nhu house where they now help keep girls from ever being sold into slavery.

Each story has its own fascinating true background story that can be found on the Brinkman Adventures website.  In Aisha's Fear we learn how God not only gave Aisha courage to endure but ended up in the salvation of not only herself but also of her evil, antagonistic husband. Even the police chief and his family come to know Christ through Aisha!  We learn that perfect love casts out fear and that God's supernatural power overcomes faith killing fear.

I could go on forever about these stories.  I just love this series!  I wholeheartedly recommend you take the time and invest in the Brinkman Adventures Season 4 for your library.  You'll need to get a copy for yourself to find out the outcomes of Dimitri, his wife Natalia and son Alexi in Heart Song when Dimitri is emprisoned for teaching the gospel to his son and neighbors.  Does Aunt Sarah, after years of ministry, finally get any results in Zambia or survive the ensuing car crash? Do Jack and Kate survive the hippo attack in Crisis in the Congo?  Does Yanick the witchdoctor get his way or does missionary Glen Chapman successfully confront him in The Mysterious Palm Feller? What happens to Ians robot in War of the Raccoons? Who are the mysterious men that take Jack and Nik to an unknown place in The Five Guys?

The seasons can be purchased on CD or digitally through emailed download link.  We received ours as a download and I had no problems with it at all.  We even figured out how to listen to it on our TV through our Roku device using wifi.  This kids liked this since we could sit and relax in the living room as we listened to the episodes.  Of course War of the Raccoons would be my sons favorite with robots and paintball guns!  My favorite was the The Crashed Kitchen because I loved how Sarah learned that despite seemingly negative circumstances lack of progress, God indeed does not make mistakes.  

Brinkman Adventures
You can connect with Brinkman Adventures on FACEBOOK.  Please also take the time to check out the other reviews on this series through the link below. 

Brinkman Adventures Season 4

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


If you are looking for a new homeschool math solution then I might have the answer for you.  I was so excited to get to officially review the Family Membership for CTCMath.  You can add up to 5 students with a family membership.  Those of you who know me know that I talk about this curriculum a lot.  It was a life saver for my son many years ago.  It has continued to be the go-to math curriculum in our family. It is an online curriculum with an annual membership.  At some levels, math worksheets can also be printed and then entered into the system when completed.  My middle school students sometimes prefer to print the lesson out and work it out that way.  Printed worksheets are not an option for my kindergartner.

8th grader working on his math

Middle School video lesson sample

We began our math journey using another math curriculum that worked great until we hit the 4th grade.  My struggling learner son was getting bored and frustrated with the endless problems he had to complete.  His frustration was severely hindering his ability to learn the material.  We tried many options and finally found our solution with CTCMath.  It covers grades K-12 including Calculus.  It is a full curriculum from grades K-8.  After the 8th grade they do recommend using it as a supplemental program but I noticed recently that they have added a LOT of new material so that may change in the near future.

K4 daughter working on math

Kindergarten sample video lessons

The lessons are short, to the point and focused.  The lessons consist of a short (3 to 10 minutes depending on grade level) video lesson and then a short set of questions.  There are generally only about 10 questions to answer for each lesson (but it varies as my K4 just completed a lesson with 20 questions).  This may seem like your student wouldn't get enough training but on the contrary.  The short math lessons keep your child's attention and help them to master subjects quickly.  There are ways to customize the lessons and one of the options I chose is to require the kids to pass with at least a score of 90% or better.  This helps me to feel confident they are mastering the material. They are allowed to retake the lesson as many times as necessary to pass.  This is also all recorded for you to see in the reports on each student.  The reports show you when and how many times it took a student to complete a lesson.

Detailed Middle School Report

Summary Middle School Report

By setting a minimum pass score it causes the kids to have to repeat the lesson until they can pass with a score of 90% or better.  The kids really like the shorter lessons and generally do not get frustrated with the lessons.  Once in a while, they hit a tough lesson that causes them to take a lot longer.

Student Dashboard
The lessons are broken into topics and within each topic grouping, you have the option to take a diagnostic test (used to determine what skills your child may need to work on) and a topic test taken at the end for testing purposes. We personally do not use the diagnostic tests regularly but I have heard that others use it to also test their knowledge at the end of the sections in addition to or instead of the topic tests.

There are so many wonderful benefits to this curriculum that  I like including
  • instant results for the kids
  • self grading
  • ability to track everything the kids do
  • reports emailed to me
  • ability to assign "tasks" to keep kids on track
Assigned tasks

One of the main things that made this a success for my son was the instant feedback on whether his answer is right or wrong.  It was a problem he struggled with from the beginning.  It would take us hours to get through math because I had to sit with him and let him know after EACH question if he was right or wrong.  I detested this, but it was how he was wired.  He just melted down if he didn't know how he had done. CTCMath saved me from this agony. On the regular daily lessons, he sees after each question if he gets it right or wrong and it gives him the right answer if it is wrong. SCORE!

Another time saver is that everything is automatically graded for you and recorded.  If I am not sure he is staying on task or completing lessons I can just log in to see what he did for the day, when he logged on, when he logged off, how long he took on the lesson, how many attempts he made and if he passed it or not and what his score was.  It is wonderful!!  I have found that I do have to "assign tasks" with him because otherwise he jumps around and looks for easier lessons to complete and gets all messed up on his lessons.  That is one negative of this program is that it allows the student free access to any and all lessons (Yet a big positive for us since you can adjust grade levels per your student's needs).  He can jump grades and lessons at will.  It does not force him to finish anything in order.  When I go in and assign him lessons using the task feature I am able to track if he is keeping things in order and completing the lessons he needs to complete in the order I want them completed.  He can bypass this but it also shows that the task was not completed (I get emails on this also) and he, of course, has consequences from me (lost privileges and game time) when this happens.

The teacher, Pat Murray, is Australian so there is an accent and sometimes the foreign aspect comes through but it is not a problem for us.  He is a wonderful teacher and makes the lessons engaging.  My 7th grader noticed that "color" was misspelled the other day but I told her that the spelling of "colour" is also acceptable.  I currently have my K4, 7th grade, and 8th grade students using this and they all enjoy it (as much as a child can of math). 

I have my own PARENT LOGIN and each of the kids have their own individual logins with their own passwords.  Once I log in I see my parent dashboard which gives me a screenshot of all the kid's progress and overall grades. I can assign tasks if necessary or use the tools to browse lessons, export data, or print checklists that I can use to manually log their lessons completed.  I just recently realized that this is a good idea because with the menus being so complex it is time-consuming and difficult sometimes to keep up with what they are completing. If I manually write it down on the checklist sheet I can see at a glance what lessons they may have skipped or not completed.

Parent Dashboard

Another fun feature that is easily missed is the math games at the bottom of each screen
  • Speed Skills
  • Times Tables
  • Swap pieces (I have yet to master this!)

Speed Skills (covers addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and order of operations) and Times Tables provide some excellent practice with a lot of fun for the kids.

We have been very happy with this math curriculum and I wholeheartedly recommend CTCMath.  The Family Membership has been a perfect fit for us.  They have wonderful discounts for homeschool families. Currently, you can take advantage of their FREE TRIAL which allows you limited access to try the program out.  If you decide it is a good fit for you then you can take advantage of their DISCOUNT OFFER which includes 60% off retail price plus an ADDITIONAL 6 MONTHS FREE!  You just cannot beat that offer. 



Please see what others are saying about this wonderful program through the link below

CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ruby's Contribution to the Coop Add On

Our sweet Aussie puppy Ruby thought she would do her fair share in helping in the construction of our coop addition.  Hubby had just dug the trench for burying the fence and it was a pretty hot day out.  She learned what the chickens already know, that digging down in the earth makes for a really nice cool resting place.  It was funny and cute.  It wasn't so cute that she decided to wallow around in the dirt a little rather than just lay there though!  Silly puppy.  Keeps us on our toes for sure.  Love her to pieces but boy is she a handful.
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