Thursday, May 17, 2018


Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS by PandaParents is our newest review and Little Bug approves.  I received the first 3 months of digital copies of their program and should be receiving 3 more months soon.  The files included digital reading books, videos, and digital workbooks.  This is a monthly digital subscription service so you would get one month at a time.  Each month there is a story topic and for each month you have a reading book, a video that supports that book, and a workbook that reviews the story and has LOTS of activities to work on throughout the month.

M.E.S.S.Y.Learning is an acronym for:
  • Mixed subjects and activities for integrative learning
  • Engaging activities and questions that challenge brains
  • Simple 1-2-3 steps: READ, WATCH, DO
  • Smart designs for creative learning
  • Yeah, a new way to promote early brain growth!
I was able to download the files with no problem.  I have a wonderful, very economical, color printer that I get ink for very cheaply so I was able to print off the reading book (only 50 pages - 25 duplexed-  for the first month) and the workbook (only 40 pages, 20 duplexed).  They are both PDF files so you could easily just read them on your computer and only print necessary pages from the workbook for assignments.  Technically all pages in the workbook need to be printed but there are some you can adapt and just have child answer on screen.

Their program says it builds complex brain functions (early brain development) and fine motor skills through:
  • Story recall and thinking activities (preschool stories with pictures)
  • Reading, writing, and tracing (early reading activities for preschoolers)
  • Sequence and matching games
  • Counting, math, and writing numbers (early childhood education math activities)
  • Completing patterns, sorting colors, and shapes (preschool learning)
It is recommended that you read the story, watch the video, then complete a page or two in the workbook (they recommend you use it 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes at a time).  We followed the suggestions and worked on ours about 2 - 3 days per week for about 30 minutes or so.  We, of course, reread the book several times and watched the videos multiple times.  Repetition is key at this stage of learning.  Some of the material was very much PreK oriented but Little Bug still enjoyed working on her pages.  I liked the reinforcement she was getting.

Sample book page

The first month we chose to work on has a book with two parts and two videos (part 1 and part 2).  The Part 1 video was approximately 10 minutes long and Part 2 was approximately 38 minutes.  The first part of the book was A Jolly Jingling Journey and if you guessed it was based on the letter J, you would be correct!  The letters R and F are also covered.  The story opens with introducing Davy Rainbow and his dogs Dahu and Magnus. In his dream, they travel to the North Pole and meet Jet, a husky dog. They learn about the letter J and patterns.  They play a game of "find me" to find Santa.  The second part of the book was An Epic Journey.  Davy and his gang help Santa find a missing reindeer.  We learned about the migration of reindeer.  Davy and Santa use clues to find the reindeer.  They use Jet and his friends to pull the sleigh to go look for them.  All through the story the letter "J" and "J" words are being used.  We counted the reindeer with lighted collars.  The story ends with Davy waking up on Christmas morning. At the end of the book, there is an Extra Credit page that has even more activities with an answer key.

Extra Credit page

In the video, Part 1, we learn about the Special Guest Star letter "J" and juggling.  Both upper and lowercase letters are shown.  I also really liked how they subtly introduced foreign language in a couple of places.  It is cute and whimsical and Little Bug got a kick out of it.  Little Bug is 5 years old and I have done a lot of Kindergarten work with her this past year but we will also repeat Kindergarten next year.  The Part 2 video is a movie version of the book with some extra activities.  It is a wonderful reinforcement to the storybook.

Sample video clips

The third part of this curriculum is the workbook that further reinforces themes from the story and this is where your child gets to really engage in various activities including cutting, pasting, matching, coloring, counting, and writing (including tracing). Activities teach your child to problem solve and learn about sequencing.  They will learn about nature and shapes, feelings and emotions.

Workbook cover

Sample workbook page

Little Bug working on her workbook page

Sticker page can be printed on sticker label paper or just
 cut out and glued on page (which is what we did)

There really is a lot to this curriculum and when you look at it as a whole and work through the activities you can see how engaged your child becomes.  It is a fun curriculum that is just perfect for the PreK age group.  It will go a long way to preparing them for kindergarten.  With there just being a book per month I'm not sure this could be a stand alone program (I can't see if they cover all 26 letters of the alphabet), but definitely a great supplemental one.  If the goal is for it to be a stand alone program and all 26 letters will be covered then It would probably work just fine.  I looked at the other two books we received.  Mommy's Baby covers the letters P, T, K, and B and animals and shapes.  The video for Mommy's Baby is only about 5 minutes long.  The third book I received, Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound, covers the letters S and H.  It also covers nature and seasons.

I think I would recommend MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS for Preschool aged children that have not had experience with their letters and numbers.  It is a wonderful introduction to more formal learning and will give them many skills they need to be Kindergarten ready.  Little Bug is really enjoying it even though she already knows her letters and numbers.  There are still some skills she needs to work on that this curriculum covers.


You can connect with PandaParents on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and INSTAGRAM.  Currently, they have digital subscriptions available.  If you want printed books they have options for that but they will only fulfill those once they receive 200 orders or more.  Just check their website out for more details on all the options available for purchase.  Of course, your best deal is the monthly digital subscription.

Please also be sure to check out the other reviews to see what fellow Crew members have to say.

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Kids Email Safe Email for Kids REVIEW

Kids Email

I AM "THAT MOM."  I protect my kids sometimes to the verge of too much.  Or, can there really be a "too much" in today's society.  Each generation seems to say, "It just wasn't like that in MY generation."  With the dangers of today's technology, I was more than happy to have a chance to review Kids Email Safe Email for Kids by Kids Email.

She thinks it's pretty cool to have her own email!

We received a free 1-year subscription for up to 6 kids.  This is a digital product so you, of course, must have internet access to use this.  It is very customizable.  It was easy to sign up for the account and add the kids in.  You basically have a parent account with a dashboard to customize all of your settings and set up accounts for each child.  I even chose the more "adult" teen version for my 14 year old son.  The extension on his email is kmail instead of kidsemail and he has the extra option to customize his folders in his inbox.  Now my kids can communicate safely with our family members and those I choose to allow.  Don't worry, there is also an option to review all ingoing and outgoing mail in your kids email account.

Customized templates
Teen version has a little different interface that
 also allows for custom organizing of folders

I just don't think you can be "too safe" with what is out there today in cyberspace.  It is too easy for strangers to connect with our kids.  Did you even know that a lot of "innocent" game apps allow your kids to communicate with strangers?  I have the tablets for my kids on lockdown (or so I thought) because I just don't trust what is out there.  My son was telling me a story one day and I said, "who were you talking to and how?!"  He said through his game!!  I said, "well we will just fix that," much to his dismay until I explained to him that he really has no idea who this person claims to be.  I even have a net nanny to filter stuff out, but the "chat" feature from an app got missed.  Mind you this was one of his game apps, not anything like facebook or musically.  I just didn't realize that they have "chat site" options in these games that allow them to play with others over the internet.  I have tried to not allow those games in, but this one got missed.

Kids Email Safe Email for Kids seemed the perfect solution for us.  I have not allowed him to have email, but now he can and I can rest easy.  It allows you to only allow contacts you choose or approve of if you want (or you can allow it to work like regular email with no restrictions except their safe filter).  There are NO ads!  Yup, no worries on crazy images or inappropriate advertisements your kids might accidentally see.  This alone is worth a lot to me!  Especially with a teenage son.  Other features include:
  • email filters that can not just block certain people or allow all emails, but also any attachments, pictures, or links
  • time of day restrictions or even "grounding" for a period of time
  • contact manager that allows you to have a list of approved contacts
  • spam filter (no spam!!)
  • mail queue that allows you to review emails going in and/or out if you choose
  • custom mailbox that your child can organize (teen version) and customize their own inbox (some cute templates are available).
There are so many customizations available and it really does work to block unwanted content.  It also blocks any offensive words.  The activity log not only shows you when they logged in and out but also when they try to access it when not allowed.  Customizing it is fun for the kids and really makes it "their" email.  I love that they can now safely communicate with our relatives that do not live locally.

For my K5 daughter, there is a READ IT feature that actually reads her email to her!  What a great thing while she is learning to read right now.  I love it!  Some other really fun features include the option for them to DRAW a picture in the email (on the tablet and mobile devices) and send it.  They can also send their own attachments if you allow that.

Little Bug LOVES the drawing feature!!

Another bonus for us is that it is also available as a Kindle app!  I love that! I chose Kindles for my kids because of the safety features, now they have kid friendly email to go with it.  The dashboard does look different on your mobile devices and tablets as compared to the computer or laptop, but just as user-friendly.  If your kids have mobile phones, no problem, they have the apps available.

The interface is a little different on the Kindle tablet

If I can't convince you how awesome this is then I have even more good news.  You can try this out for FREE using their 30 day trial.  You don't even need a credit card or anything to sign up.  Just register and you can try it out for 30 days with nothing more to do unless you choose to continue your subscription. How cool is that?!  

If you choose to continue they have 2 options and the annual option is by far the best.  If you choose annual it is only $38.95 for the year (approx $2.99/mth because you get 1 free month extra) and 6 email accounts.  If you choose monthly it will be billed at $4.95/mth and you only get 4 email accounts.

Kids Email

I plan to continue our Kids Email Safe Email for Kids subscription and highly recommend that you check this wonderful resource out.  You can connect with Kids Email on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, and GOOGLE+.

Please take the time to see what other Crew Review members are saying about this.

Safe Email for Kids {Kids Email Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Broody Easter Egger Momma

Aaaaannnnd. . . we have a broody mom!  I have been asking my steadfast Buff Orpington broody moms when they were gonna sit some eggs for me.  They of course just looked at me like I was crazy.  I do have one new Orpington that has pretended to want to sit, so she might in the near future.

But, kind of out of the blue, one of my young Easter Egger hens has decided she wants to hatch some babies!!  She has been very protective of the eggs when I collect them and has been screaming at me, but I just kept ignoring her.  On Saturday I decided to leave a couple eggs under her to see what she would do.  One day and night later and she was still sitting!  I am excited.

You know the saying, "don't count your eggs before they are hatched?"   Well, that is because broody moms can be fickle.  Especially new moms!!  The eggs must incubate for 21 days to hatch.  If at any time she decides to stop sitting on those eggs, they will not hatch.  They need her warm body to incubate them and her skills to keep them turned.

Hoping we hatch out some pullets!!  Roosters will surely be food on the table as we already have too many now. Broodiness can be catching so perhaps one of the other moms will decide to sit soon too.

May your day be greatly blessed!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Kayla Jarmon Books REVIEW

Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog by Kayla Jarmon
We can never get our hands on enough books when it comes to Little Bug.  As I've said before, she just LOVES books!  We recently had the opportunity to review three books by Kayla Jarmon that included A Boy and His Dog, Don't Forget Me, and Dying Is Part of This World.  We received links to preview the books but they are all available in paperback on Amazon.

A Boy and His Dog is a sweet story of a fun-filled day with a boy and his dog.  They go on many adventures.  Even though this book is perfect for Little Bug it really reminded me of my son and his dog Ruby.  We have two dogs, one geriatric older mutt, Esther, and my son's Australian Shepherd, Ruby, who will be 2 years old in about a week.  Ruby is definitely Sam's sidekick and so resonates with this story.

The boy and his dog start their day together, eat together, and go exploring together.  They play together, eat snacks together, and chase squirrels.  They get dirty and have to take baths and then snuggle down for the night.  They sleep and then wake up and start all over again!

The story shows the love a dog has for its owner and the love an owner returns (in this case the little boy) to his pet.  It's a great read aloud and the illustrations are cute and whimsical.  Get this 42-page book to see the many adventures they go on.  Little Bug really enjoyed this book and it will also serve as a nice early reader book for her in the near future.

Don't Forget Me is the first book in her Discussion Book series.  It's a conversation between God and an unborn baby in the womb.  All proceeds from this book go towards ministries for "God's Kingdom purposes."  The book begins showing the growing baby in the womb and God interacting with it.  God assures the baby He is there, always.  The baby wonders what he is experiencing and God lets him know it's his mother and what she is doing.  He is also introduced to his dad and enjoys when they read the bible to him.

Throughout the whole story, God is always assuring the baby that He is there.  It is a precious story about the journey of a fetus growing and being born.  I really like the scripture references at the end.  At 70 pages it is a quick read and a great conversation starter with your young children about how God is always with you.

Dying Is Part of This World is the second book in her Discussion Book series.  It's a story about a girl who is worried about her mother dying.  The daughter had seen something on the news while visiting with her grandfather and it got her thinking about death.

This 58-page book consists of 7 very short chapters.  The daughter shares how sad she would be to be separated from her mom, but her mom reassures her how Jesus is in heaven and that when we get there we don't think about what we left because of what joy there is to be with Jesus.  Chapter 5 is great about "Help When Losing Someone."  And Chapter 6 about "The Second Death" does a great job talking about judgment day and eternal thinking.

There are scripture references and discussion questions at the end of every chapter. I think this book is better for grade school age children and the discussion questions are such wonderful conversation starters.

This is a very precious book.  Little Bug is going through some intense emotions these days so I am holding off on going over this book with her right now.  My mom passed away almost 2 years ago and this book would be just so perfect for us to discuss together.  Sometime in the near future, I'm sure we will do just that!

These three books would be a nice addition to your library.  I really like how the discussion questions were added to the third book.  You can connect with Kayla Jarmon on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and INSTAGRAM.

As always, don't forget to check out the other reviews.

Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Reading Kingdom REVIEW

Reading Kingdom
Little Bug absolutely LOVES books so any programs that can help her learn to read are right up our alley.  We were excited to have a chance to review Reading Kingdom.  We received a one-year subscription to the program.  It is an online reading program that uses a unique technique that incorporates 6 skills necessary for successful reading and writing (sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension).  It has an intuitive aspect to it that adjusts to your child's skill level.  You will need to have an internet connection to use the program.  It will work on any device that has an internet connection (i.e. tablet, desktop computer, etc.).  It works with Windows, Mac, iPad, Android, or Chromebooks.  If you use a tablet it will ask/remind you to keep it in portrait mode.

The books in the online program contain 5 levels with 6 books at each level for a total of 30 books by the end of the program.  The program is geared for PreK to 3rd grade (ages 4-10) and will teach them to read and write at a 3rd-grade level once completed (begin with Lexile level 80 and end with Lexile level 750).  There is a pretest that is highly suggested to not skip over.  It makes sure that your child is placed at an appropriate level. You always have control through your dashboard to adjust lessons by moving backward or forward as necessary.  I also just learned that I can change a setting to make sure she repeats a lesson she needs help on before she is allowed to move forward.  I just changed that so that we are not getting behind on her learned skills.  There are also tutorials to teach your child to become familiar with the keyboard and mouse.  These will be critical skills for this curriculum because your child will need to enter letters and type words.

Sample progress chart to show what is accomplished
and what needs some work or improvement

For us, it was easier for Little Bug to use the tablet because her hands are so small and she was having a lot of difficulties maneuvering the mouse.  I should probably buy one of those kid-friendly ones so she can practice her computer skills.  When using the tablet there is an onscreen keyboard to use so she is still learning some keyboarding skills as far as learning where letters and keys are.

Each lesson takes Little Bug about 15 minutes or so to complete.  She really does enjoy the lessons but sometimes she does still get a little frustrated.  She is very strong-willed and doesn't like when the lady "helps" her or instructs her what she needs to do.  We are currently using this every day so she completes 4-5 lessons per week as long as we don't miss a day.  In the above video, she seems to have great trouble spelling "walk."  When I asked her how to spell "walk" about an hour after her lesson she quickly spouted out the correct spelling.  I was pleased!  I think she struggles a little and we do need to go back and repeat a few lessons but I can see great progress in her.  And to be clear she is still in PreK and will not technically be Kindergarten age till this fall (but we have done a lot of Kindergarten work this past year).

One of the beginning lessons

Fun games to teach spelling and keyboarding

As your child advances through the lessons, the program adjusts as necessary so that your child does not become frustrated or overwhelmed with the material.  The reports show you areas where your child might need help or to go back and review a section if necessary. The program HIGHLY recommends that you use it at least 4 days per week.  They also do not recommend doing more than two sessions at a time or per day since it is counterproductive to the way the program works.

In addition to the online program, you can also access additional help from the Resources tab (on the website from your desktop computer).  Some of the resources available are:
  • Links to educational kid activities
  • Tutorials on how to use the program
  • Links to suggested apps
  • Sample Lessons
  • Learning Tips (excellent section!)
  • Worksheets you can download to print out

Sample printable worksheets available

We have really enjoyed this program and I must admit that when we started I was pretty skeptical.  I was pretty sure this was probably not the program for us and that perhaps she might be struggling a little.  As we progress I am more impressed and look forward to seeing what our end results will be.  The fact that she enjoys and looks forward to her lessons is a big plus! We recommend that you take a serious look at Reading Kingdom for your K-3 student.  If you have a struggling learner or a child on the autism spectrum they also have ASD Reading that might be just what you need!  They both have a FREE 30-day trial and then the option to sign up to pay monthly or yearly.

Reading Kingdom
You can connect with Reading Kingdom on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and INSTAGRAM.

Please take the time to check out what my fellow Crew members have to say about Reading Kingdom and ASD Reading.

Learn to Read with Reading Kingdom OR ASD Reading {Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New Chicken Playhouse

The girls (and boys) in the 4H pen are really enjoying their new playhouse!  I knew I needed to get more stuff in their run to shake things up a bit and deter boredom.  They also desperately needed more shade and shelter (all they have is under their tiny coop).

I wanted to hit some yard sales to find them a playhouse when I realized that Little Bug's house was pretty much falling apart.  We get wicked winds during storms around here and it has just seen better days.  Sam (my oldest) helped me disassemble, then reassemble the playhouse in the 4H pen.  The feathered dinos were not impressed at first!

By the next day, they were all hanging out and playing all over it.  I put a 2 x 6 board across the window ledges to use as a roost and they are just loving it.  They especially love to fly to the top of the house and just check everything out from a higher vantage point.  When it gets hotter in the middle of the day they hang out in and around it where it is cooler and shady.  So glad we did that!

What fun additions have you done with your chicken yard?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Weigl Publishers Interactive Media-Enhanced Books REVIEW

Weigl Publishers Media Enhanced Books
Little Bug can't get enough of books so when we had the chance to review some digital books from Weigl Publishers we, of course, said, "Yes!"  We received 3 PDF books with codes to access media-enhanced content that included: Glaciers from the series "Earth's Water" (published under their imprint Lightbox and intended for a grades 3-6 interest range), A Lion's World belonging to their “EyeDiscover" series (intended for a K-2 interest range), and There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant (a fiction title, intended for a K-2 interest range).  These titles are all available in hardback (the code and link to the digital content are included in each book).  We received the PDF files for purposes of review.

All books came with an individual code that you then enter into the given website to access the digital book with extra media-enhanced content.  The PDF files were simple to download and the code links were just as easy to access.  To access the digital interactive content you will need an internet connection.  You purchase the book with the special code and the code gives you full access to the books online digital content.  It is not a subscription.

There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant

Her absolute favorite was There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant because it, of course, reminded her of her other absolute favorite series with similar titles (The Little Old Lady ones)!  This title is an AV2 Fictional Readalong.  The silly cowpoke swallows all sorts of crazy things to try to take care of the fire ant he swallows in the beginning.  It ends with him getting rid of all the critters he swallows and collapsing in his bed all wore out.  It has a fun, rhyming pattern that young kids really like.  My little one always giggles at these silly type of stories.  The graphics are great and add to the fun. I really like that it can read the story to her to help her with her reading skills (the sentences are highlighted as the story is read).  She is only 5 and should be in PreK but I have been doing a lot of Kindergarten work with her.

Sample of other titles and categories available at AV2 books.

There are currently over 1800 AV2 books that include books in science, social studies, language arts, visual arts and sports.  The media-enhanced books work with computers, laptops, tablets, and whiteboards.

Easy navigation

Her next favorite one of the 3 books was A Lion's World.  It has short sentences and is a great beginner book for her to be working on.  I absolutely LOVE that it has a summation at the end of the book that lists the sight words and content words used and where they can be found.

She really enjoys these books
A Lions World

Short, simple sentences.

Sight and Content words used and locations.

The 3rd book was Glaciers and it is geared for grades 3-6.  While it is way over Little Bug's head, she still enjoyed looking at the pictures and watching the videos.  I loved how much information was available and how deep you can go into researching this topic.  

Glaciers Earths Water

The interactive links included videos, audio files, web links, slide shows, activities, transparencies, interactive maps, quizzes, and key words.  You can use all these tools to be as involved or uninvolved as a homeschool mom.  You can ask your older students to work on self-study or use all the resources to go over with your child while you lead and guide them through the activities.

We really liked A Lion's World, There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant, and GlaciersTeam these books up with the digital, media-enhanced books online and you have a wonderful learning resource that is interactive and fun.  We definitely recommend these books and the many others available from Weigl Publishers.  Your learning opportunities seem endless with the vast amount of information available through their media-enhanced online tools.

Weigl Publishers
Please be sure to check out the reviews on these books from my fellow Crew members to see what they have to say.

Multimedia Digital Books {Weigl Publishers Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer
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