Friday, October 30, 2020

Smart Kidz On-Demand Radio Library REVIEW

 Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Do you remember those old radio show programs (oh dear, my age is showing!)? Meet the modern version with an educational flair mixed in along with a kids version of online streaming radio! I was excited to be able to try Smart Kidz Radio: Member's On-Demand Radio Program Library from Smart Kidz Radio.  I received a free 6-month subscription to this educational and inspirational radio station for kids. It's not your average music streaming service. You do need wifi to access the service. 

A sampling of program groups available (there are MANY more!!)

There is so much more to this Radio Program Library than just streaming music.  Smart Kidz has a heart to not only help educate your child, but to help with character building, social skills, and positive values. The management team of the company has over 30 years of experience in the home educational market. There are over 3,000 children and family songs in the digital library.  With a paid subscription, you receive 1 new resource added to your library each week.

Christian Music and Bible Songs

Setting up an account is simple and easy and you log in quickly with your email and password.  Access to the streaming is completely free but the content is changing all the time.  To have access to all of the content all of the time including new content each week it is beneficial to have a paid membership.  If your child has a favorite story or song it may not be accessible for long without a paid membership since content changes all the time on the site.  Paid members have access to ALL of the content ALL of the time.

Story Time Programs

Once we logged on we were able to stream from the library right away and Little Bug was so excited to explore.  There is so much content!!  There is something for age groups from birth to age 10 and beyond.  It is geared more for the little ones but older kids and adults can also enjoy the classical music and some of the American Heritage songs.  Her current favorite is the Smart Kidz Storytime Programs.

Classical Music

The content easily plays in the background while you work on other things such as crafts or puzzles (which Little Bug adores!).  As a mom, I like that there are character-building content and other educational programs including Spanish, Music History, Science, Math, and Reading to name a few! Little Bug can easily navigate the dashboard to find what she wants to listen to (she is in 2nd grade).  There are even some options for downtime in the Bedtime, Affirmations & Relaxations program section.


Another very positive aspect of the company is the Smart Kidz Radio Foundation -- "a non-profit foundation that will offer educational scholarships and financially support programs that give opportunities for young people to follow their dreams and make a difference in the world." (from website FAQ).  A portion of your membership fees (20%) goes to support this wonderful foundation.  In our ever changing, crazy world we live in it is nice to know there are still companies out there that want to sow positively into our youth, the future. 

We give Smart Kidz Radio: Member's On-Demand Radio Program Library a thumbs up.  You can't go wrong and can check them out for free.  If you want to see what you get with a paid membership there is a 14-day trial option to sign up for and test it out.  You can connect with Smart Kidz Radio on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, and PINTEREST.

Please be sure to also check out what my fellow Crew members have to say about this wonderful educational and inspirational radio station for kids by clicking on the graphic link below.  Happy listening!

Smart Kidz Radio: Member's On-Demand Radio Program Library {Smart Kidz Radio Reviews}

Thursday, October 29, 2020

End of Season Garden

How in the world do you get the above pic from the pic below??

We worked so hard this year to get and keep control of the garden.  Things were going really well until more life happened.  We had rain at the wrong times in relation to my schedule and I just wasn't able to get to the garden as often as the season started to wind down.  It doesn't take much out here for the weeds to overtake the garden.  We'll have it looking like the above pic again, but it's gonna be a lot of work.

The big plus takeaway is that the black landscape fabric really worked!!  Looking forward to more success next year.  Also learned that we are going to put up more cattle fencing for the tomatoes to grow on again instead of the cages.  Many years ago I had a consistent good harvest when I tied them to fencing instead of cages.

How does your garden grow?  Have you winterized everything yet?


Friday, October 23, 2020

Thinkwell Homeschool REVIEW

 Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 


Where do I start?  Math.  It's complicated.  I'm pretty good at math, but my high schooler, not so much. I'm sure it has a lot to do with his dyslexia and of course just plain not wanting to do it.  When I had the chance to get some help from a live teacher I jumped on the opportunity.  I am so glad I chose to give Thinkwell's Instructor-led Geometry from Thinkwell Homeschool a try!!  Wow.  I did have some trouble creating my account but they helped me get on track pretty quickly and easily.  Once we were set up I could see how wonderful the organization of the program was.  I received not only one but two full semesters of access to this course.  It is an NCAA approved online math program and will need a device to access the lessons and an internet connection.

There are set dates for each semester but you are able to work at your own pace to keep up or catch up with the lessons.  I don't recommend that you get behind though because it moves at a pretty good clip.  We are currently struggling with being behind right now because thanks to this wonderful program I found out that my son's Algebra skills were severely lacking!!  I won't go into the long story but when he took Algebra 1 two years ago he did very well.  I'm not sure how he pulled it off because he seems to have forgotten even just the very basic algebra skills.  We are working on that now so he can get on with the actual Geometry lessons.  He has completed lessons, but we are going back and starting over so he has a strong foundation.

Sample of calendar

Sample lesson plan

Algebra?  What do you mean Algebra?  I didn't remember that you need basic algebra for geometry so the first two weeks in this course are just that, a review in algebra to prepare you for what lies ahead.  If you have a student who aced Algebra 1 or just doesn't need the review you can have them take the practice test and then the Algebra Review Test and move on to week 3 right from the start.

What do I like about this program?  It is so well organized and moves you along at a nice pace.  Everything is taught in what I feel is bite-sized pieces.  We receive a weekly email that contains two printouts (pdf files), the Weekly To-Do List and the Weekly Warm-Up problem(s).  The Weekly To-Do List is gold to me!  It takes you step by step for the week on what to do.  You complete the tasks one by one and check them off as done! I also get emails twice weekly reminding me of the online office hours.

Is your student struggling, needing help on a problem, or just has a general question?  Then be sure they attend office hours twice weekly with Julie (live teacher) and Sarah (live teaching assistant).  Office hours are held twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays for us) for one hour.  They are wonderful and are able to take your student(s) step by step through a problem using their online whiteboard.  They interact with the kids and play math games too!  They use Zoom as their meeting platform and it has been such a help to my student. Julie's vivacious personality and her calm spirit have really connected with my oppositional and struggling high schooler.  I was ready to quit but she has a good rapport with my son and I think we are going to be able to get through this once I get him caught back up.  We would not have been behind if he had followed his instructions to complete all his worksheets.  I should have watched him more closely and noticed that all the work was not getting completed.

That being said, if you have a struggling student or one who is good at working around the curriculum (circumventing the system), you may need to be more involved to be sure they are completing what they need to be doing and staying on task.  If you have a good strong independent learner then they will thrive in this program.

Help videos with Julie

Julie helps you every step of the way

The general flow starts with printing out your weekly to-do list and warm-up exercise.  The lessons consist of live and recorded sessions with the Geometry Instructor, Julie Welch.  The weekly online recorded lessons are conducted by Professor Edward Burger who takes you through the lesson notes and provides examples of the weekly topics covered in the homework.  Sarah Flood is the teaching assistant who helps Julie with the weekly office hour sessions.  Samantha is the moderator whom I have had contact with due to the problems my student was having.  They contacted me personally to notify me of his struggles and have worked with me extensively to get him back on track.  There are anywhere from one to three video lessons per week depending on the topic(s) covered and whether there are quizzes or tests involved.  You have unlimited attempts on the interactive practice, quizzes, and practice tests.  It allows your student to be very prepared for the test. You can view your student's grades from the dashboard link in the course account. There are also parent reports that keep you updated on your student's progress (I have not been getting these due to my son's issues in the program, but I am working with them on fixing this).

A typical week might look like this:
  • Print out the to-do list and warm-up problem(s)
  • Attempt to do the warm-up on your own
  • Watch the weekly orientation video of Julie summarizing the weekly lesson and walking you through completing the warm-up,
  • Print out the lesson notes
  • Watch the online lesson with Prof Burger and follow along with your printed notes marking your own notes with questions if you have any for the upcoming office hours sessions.
  • Complete the online interactive practice
  • Print out and complete the worksheet practice
  • Complete any extra interactive practice (not in all lessons)
The answer keys to the worksheets are at the bottom of the lesson page, available to you and your student at all times.  They even work out the problem for you so you can check for your errors if there are any.

Sample Answer Keys

There is a lot to this online math program and it is pretty pricey, but I think you really get what you pay for.  I personally give Thinkwell's Instructor-led Geometry a thumbs up.  The jury is still out as to whether it is the program for us due to my son's deficiencies, but I am very hopeful and I think once we get back on track he will succeed with flying colors and be proud of what he has accomplished.  I can's say enough good about the instructor Julie who has really helped my son not shut down in his frustration.  That means a LOT to me!! I give a personal shout out to Julie Welch and her wonderful exuberance that helps your child to not feel hopeless.  Thank you Thinkwell!!

You can connect with Thinkwell Homeschool on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and YOUTUBE.  Also, be sure to check out the reviews from my fellow Crew members that include Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 by clicking on the graphic link below.

Thinkwell Instructor-Led Algebra 1 / Algebra 2 / Geometry {Thinkwell Homeschool Reviews}

Wedding Bliss


My heart is full.  My husband's oldest daughter recently got married and I couldn't be happier for her and our new son-in-law.  Of course, I must admit that he had me at "chickens."  Yes, he is a fellow chicken lover and I've been blessed with a few cuties of his flock he has shared with me.  Follow up to that later in another post.

I have known this sweet girl since she was only 7 years old and I have always had a special place in my heart for her.  Her mother and I have always gotten along and I feel so blessed that she has shared her with me all these years. I am so over the moon happy for her.  Little Bug got to be one of the flower girls and that just made her year.  To be able to dance with "Sissy" was just the best too.  The teenager got to be a groomsman too and I think that made him happy and proud to be a part of his sister's big day.  Thank you Jesus for the many blessings and those to come!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Writing Curriculum REVIEW

 Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 

Writing for my high schooler has always been a struggle.  When you are not only dyslexic but also dysgraphic, you are bound to have some difficulties.  My high schooler has managed to overcome most of his dyslexia, it just makes him have to think harder.  The dysgraphia has been a work in progress.  We are always looking for programs to help us with these challenges.  I was excited to be able to try out the newly revised Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C from Institute for Excellence in Writing®.  We have used some of their curricula before and have always been pleased with the results. I first received access to the first 3 weeks of the curriculum and then later received the entire program packet that included the student binder, labeled dividers, pages, teacher manual, and purchase code for my "forever streaming" access to the program.

The hard copies came nicely packaged in a cardboard box

You will need internet access for the video lessons.  In addition to the hard copy of the program, you also receive access to the online video lessons with Andrew Pudewa as the instructor.  If you have never heard of him or watched his videos you are in for a treat.  I really like him as an instructor and he seems to really capture the attention of my reluctant high schooler.  My high schooler was NOT looking forward to this program but Andrew has really helped him to be able to tolerate it well!  Andrew is a clear, concise, and entertaining instructor.  I think he is very good at capturing the attention of his students.

The kit comes with everything you need.  The binder has prelabeled dividers and there are instructions on how and what order to place the student pages into it.  The teacher manual is wonderful and has complete instructions on how to help your student along in the course.  Andrew does the teaching through the videos but you will also watch the videos to prepare for helping your student with the homework and grading.  There are instructions in the Teachers Manual on how to access the free downloads that you will use in the course for yourself and your student that include reproducible checklists, student samples (not available for Level C till early November 2020), and timestamps for the videos (invaluable for finding specific content you want to view!).

PDF downloads for teacher helps

Binder instructions for student pages

Andrew Pudewa does the teaching

The focus of the program is on nine structural models that include note taking, writing paragraphs, stories, simple reports, writing from pictures, research reports, creative writing, essays, and critiques.  Stylistic techniques taught include dress-ups (strong verbs, quality adjectives, etc), sentence openers (prepositional, clausal, etc), and decorations (alliteration, quotation, simile/metaphor, etc).

Sample Table of Contents

Sample teacher manual pages with overview and helps

There is so much more to this program than meets the eye.  It integrates seamlessly with Fix It! Grammar so if you are needing a grammar option then you can do that also. The weekly schedules include which lessons from Fix It! Grammar to cover.  There is an included scope and sequence section in the teachers manual that includes literature suggestions and another page that explains how to adapt the program for homeschool, one-day-a-week, two-or three-day-a-week, or four-or five-day-a-week programs.

Sample checklist to help in grading

Weekly lesson overview

Adapted 30 week schedule with scope and sequence

Even though lesson videos are over an hour long, you will see from the weekly schedule that it is generally broken down into two different days so your student has approximately 30-35 minutes of video twice weekly.  I really like that the schedule easily allows for a four-day week which works very well for my reluctant student who craves a day off here and there.

The timestamps PDF from the teacher files is
invaluable for finding specific topics

We have been following the included schedule and use the four or five day schedule as it suits us each week.  I am also excited that since he did not complete his Fix It! Grammar that we had received in the past, we can pick that back up and complete in it conjunction with this program.  I can't say enough about how much we are liking this writing curriculum.  My son hates to write and he doesn't like doing literature at all, but this program is getting him through his requirements with a lot less fussing than usual and the simple bite-sized lessons and Andrew's comic relief sure are helping us to do that!!

I highly recommend Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level C from Institute for Excellence in Writing®.  You can connect with IEW on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, and YOUTUBE.  Also be sure to check out the reviews from my fellow Crew members by clicking on the graphic link below.  There are free samples available on the IEW website so be sure to take advantage of those.

Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level A, B & C {Institute for Excellence in Writing® Reviews}

Kitty Presents

 Lions and tigers and MICE, OH MY!!  Why do these farm cats think this is so endearing to us??!  I am grateful that she is a good mouser, but I sure could skip the present part.  Do you have a good mouser?  Do they leave you special presents?  Fall is certainly here and harvest time always brings the mice.  We are enjoying the cooler weather though.  Thanks for the present Katerina!!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Simply Coding REVIEW

 Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I can only say WOW!  I keep wanting my son to like coding for a good skill set for his future.  He LOVES video games and it just seems like a good fit.  When given the chance once again to receive a coding program I jumped on it.  I received a free Coding for Kids Annual Membership from Simply Coding and I am simply amazed.  I did not realize just how much we were going to receive with this membership. There is so much to cover and tell you about I hope I can do it some justice.  There are options for single or family use if you choose to purchase a membership.  It is designed for use by 11-18 year olds but based on what I see a mature 8 year old could easily begin and there is plenty to keep an adult occupied and learning!!

Coding lessons with future lessons grayed out

This is an online program that requires internet access and a decent laptop or computer to work on.  You will also be required to download additional programs (for free and paid) in order to complete certain modules.  Within the coding section, there does not appear to be any paid programs necessary.  We were able to use the text editor and download images for free from a suggested website.

There are a LOT of lessons within the tabs to choose from!

Did I say there was a LOT you get with this homeschool coding program? There are 4 sections (tabs) to choose from.  Each tab has a large assortment of programs to learn.  Some lessons are not available until you complete prerequisites first.  Most lessons have a syllabus to help summarize what you will learn and help keep you on track.  You also have the option to upload files for grading if you choose to use it for school credit.  You can see from the graphics above what is covered within the different sections (tabs).

Sample of part of the syllabus on websites

My son is really into fabricating homemade knives.  He's actually quite good at it. It seemed to make the best sense to start with building a website.  It is a work in progress and it has been a great learning experience.  I'm looking forward to the completed project, or at least what would be considered completed.  I understand that you will often update your website, but I can't wait for the finished product once this module is completed.  Progress has been slow, but it's getting done!

Lesson 1 code

Lesson 1 visual result (pretty cool!)

The lessons are simple and straight forward.  They are broken down into simple, bite-sized, pieces.  I REALLY like that there is a video component that basically walks you through the lesson step by step (generally about 3 minutes or so long).  This is such a tremendous help for my son. There are also HINTS within each lesson that actually shows you the code if you don't understand or can't figure it out.  There are quizzes throughout to help keep your student on task and measure their retention. They are simple 5 question quizzes that are automatically graded as you complete them.

Lesson samples showing lesson text and also video component

There is a Parent Dashboard where you can manage your personal information, subscription, passwords, and see your student's progress.  Another really nice feature is the Live Teacher Sessions.  We have not participated in any of the live sessions, but they are archived and available for viewing at any time.  They are wonderful!!  They show you how to code additional projects and even give you the code to copy for your own.  You can then use the code to play the game or edit it to customize it to your own liking.  If you need help or have questions there is an active online help chat available.  There is even a link to a Game Design Challenge that your student can enter if they meet the qualifications!!

Parent Dashboard

The following are samples from the website project.  There is much to do, but progress is being made and a lot is being learned.  It is so exciting to see the progress and the "aha" moments.

The coding and the resulting website

Next up will be learning how to code trivia questions

This has been a great learning experience and I am so glad we decided to try it.  I highly recommend this homeschool coding program to anyone interested in coding or just wanting to be a little more tech-savvy.  I think even my son was a little surprised at the ease of use and the wide variety of programs to choose from.  We give the Coding for Kids Annual Membership two thumbs up.  You can connect with Simply Coding on FACEBOOK and YOUTUBE.  Be sure to see what my fellow Crew Members think by clicking on the graphic link below.

Coding for Kids Annual Membership {Simply Coding Reviews}
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