Improving Reading Skills Could Not Get Any Easier

A subscription was provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

I typically try to avoid using digital programs for basic curriculum in our homeschool, for a variety of reasons. Unless it is for a supplemental program, such as typing or engineering, any programs requiring the usage of an electronic device are heavily scrutinized in our home and it is with such scrutiny that I reviewed Reading Eggs.

Reading Eggs is an engaging online subscription-based reading program that teach kids ages 2-13 to read, and read well, through games and activities. Also included in the online subscription is access to Mathseeds, a similar type of interactive math program for kids ages 3-9.

It was almost a year ago that The Boy (then 6) was struggling to learn to read, while his best buddy was soaring through stories. All five of my daughters learned to read well at young ages so it was different for me to have a struggling reader. When I talked to his buddy’s mother about her sons reading, she accredited all of his success with Reading Eggs. That was the first time I had heard of the program and looked into getting a subscription when suddenly, everything seemed to finally click for The Boy and he no longer needed the subscription, or so I thought.

Fast forward nearly a year later and we had this opportunity to review this program. We were given two subscriptions, one for The Boy (now 7) and one for Sweetness (8). When setting up their accounts, I was given the option of one of three different levels in their program: Reading Eggs Junior (2-4), Reading Eggs (3-7), and Reading Eggspress (7-13). I set Sweetness up with Reading Eggspress level and The Boy with Reading Eggs had them complete their assessments to find out where they needed to start. Although I did not need to use it, I like the fact that I have the option to adjust the level of their lessons if I think that they need additional review or a more advanced level.

Although I prefer that the kids do not do a lot of school electronically, they see it as a treat and are always eager to jump right in and get started. Reading Eggs was no exception to that norm! The difference between this and other programs we have tried over the years, is that the kids’ interest was held. The program is set up in such a way that it is more like playing a game than studying. The first time Sweetness logged in after completing her assessment, she spent over two hours completing lessons and playing games with the eggs she had earned. It was addicting and she was eager to complete more lessons to earn more eggs so that she could continue playing the games.

One of the things that I appreciated when first looking into Reading Eggs is both the Lesson Overview section available under the About drop down menu on the home page and the 36-page downloadable Parent User Guide for Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress. The Lesson Overview provides a quick snapshot of each lesson. I quickly gravitated to the Spelling overview to find the word family that we are currently working on with The Boy. This allowed me to tailor his Reading Eggs Spelling lessons and games to coincide with the words he is needing to practice. This was a real treat for him and I both! He loved the activities and I really liked the fact that he learned those words with far more ease than previous word lists. The Parent User Guide is worth printing out or saving to your computer for easy access. This guide goes into greater detail of Reading Eggs. Along with the lesson overviews, you will find information on how to use the program, where to locate things like printable activity sheets, and how to navigate the program. Reading Eggs Junior is not covered in the Parent User Guide and I do not know if the program is run similar to Reading Eggs or Reading Eggspress so I can not comment on how useful the User Guide would be for someone working on the Junior program.

After enjoying Reading Eggs for the last several weeks, I have noticed that my children have been attempting to fill all of their discretionary time logged into their accounts. They have been able to use any device with internet access, including my cell phone during a long car ride. I can say with certainty that it has met our standards for electronic educational programs. Also worth noting, there are several apps available for iPhone and Android devices.

Another fabulous treat with Reading Eggs is their newly released homeschool guide downloadable resource that offers a detailed week-by-week overview for kids K-2nd grades. This guide is an excellent way to keep track of a child’s progress and stay on track with introducing new concepts.

It has become a common sight in my home to see Sweetness and The Boy snuggling on the couch with the laptop, giggling! I have appreciated their love of the program. They are quick to get all of their schoolwork done so that they can login to Reading Eggs and play some games. Anything that motivates the kids to complete their work is worth trying, and with their current 4-Week Free Trial, it is easy to try.

Inspiring Missionary Adventures

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

Wow! That is the best way for me to sum up our review experience with Brinkman Adventures Season 4 by Brinkman Adventures. We have been so impressed with this audio drama radio show that we are wondering why we waited so long to enjoy this fabulous product!

We were first exposed to the Brinkman Adventures nearly a year ago, in a conversation. It sounded like a great radio show but we were in the middle of several months of chaos in our home. I put my interest aside and unfortunately forgot all about it. Months passed and we were loaned the Season 1 CD’s, which were also set aside and nearly forgotten.

It was not until we were given the opportunity to review Season 4 that we actually took the time to begin listening. This has been one of those kick-yourself-for-not-doing-it-sooner experiences.

The Brinkman Adventures is a radio show that shares true and inspiring missionary stories through fictitious audio dramas. These stories have brought to life for us the dangerous adventures that missionaries often experience while sharing the Good News. Although some adventures include seemingly life-threatening experiences, they are family friendly stories for all ages. If an adventure has really difficult content, the beginning of the drama offers an explanation that some content in it could be a bit much for a child under the age of 10 that is listening without an adult. Sweetness and The Boy are both under 10 and were ok with all of the content of the episodes we have listened to thus far, but some children may need some guidance.

Each episode has enabled us to talk further about missions work and God’s hand in enabling the spreading of the Gospel. Although there are many situations that missionaries encounter, each story shows how God has protected them, provided for them, and ultimately changed the lives of many.

Talking about missionaries with the kids has been enjoyable, but the real value has come in watching the hearts of my children being prodded to remember to pray for missionaries. No one in our family has been called to the missions field, yet, but we believe it is still our responsibility to help by supporting missions through prayer and giving. I have been in awe, listening to my children pour their hearts out to God, asking for His protection and provision for various missionaries, some by name. It has been a tremendous blessing to have my children’s eyes opened to the life of a missionary in a way that I could hot have done. Although we have talked about missions over the years, The Brinkman Adventures have brought it to life for us and we feel that we are right there with them in the mission field as they spread the Good News.

One of the episodes involved the salvation of a witch doctor in the Congo. As the story unfolded and the witch doctor received Jesus, The Boy (7), let out a victorious “WOW!” What struck me in that moment was that my 7 year old understood the life transformation that had taken place as an enemy of Christ found the love of Jesus!

Another episode involved Nhu, a young girl in Cambodia that was sold into slavery to work in a salon. The audio drama only shared part of her story as the true story of Nhu is that at the age of 12, she was a victim of sex trafficking, sold by her grandmother. This is heavy material and unfortunately, a reality for many children in our world. Although I did not go into detail about Nhu’s true story with the younger two children, I did talk with Bookworm Beauty (12) about this reality. I appreciate how the Brinkman Adventures create opportunities for me to broach more difficult subjects with my children. Although the younger two were not aware of the sex trafficking,we were still able to talk about child slavery. This was still a heavy subject and it allowed us to be able to discuss the evil that surrounds us in this world. This episode gave the children another specific area to pray for and has given Bookworm Beauty another reason to be mindful and attentive in public as sex trafficking is a real issue worldwide, including right here in America.

Our normal bedtime routine usually involves some sort of family gathering as one of us reads from a good book, we watch a fruitful movie or show, play a game or listen to an audio drama. Lately, the only thing the kids have wanted to do is hear another Brinkman Adventure and then another! Brinkman Adventures Season 4 is available as a digital download or physical CD’s and consists of 12 episodes, each just under a half hour. We listened to all of season 4 within a few days because they were just that good! The kids wanted more and fortunately for us, we have the few CD’s from Season 1 still hanging around. We have begun working through Season 1 and I am quickly realizing that we will need to buy the rest of the seasons to add to our family library!

 

Worksheets Worth Having in Your Homeschool

Products were provided to us through our participation of the Homeschool Review Crew for review purposes

There are many times that I am able to review a product that I have desired to have and therefore greet the opportunity as if I was doing handsprings! There are other times that I am less thrilled at the opportunity, usually because it is a product that I would not normally consider adding to our homeschooling repertoire. Regardless, I always take on the task and give a fair review. The Individual Membership through Super Teacher Worksheets was one of those reviews that I was not very enthusiastic about initially, but I gave it my all, and quickly found that I should have been more excited from the beginning!

Worksheets are just one of those things that I typically avoid in our classroom. The main reason for me is clutter. With three kids in our school, it is hard to keep our classroom from being cluttered as it is. They are also hard for me to keep organized and oftentimes are become that one-more-extra-piece-of-paper that I just do not want to worry about. To be fair, we do use workbooks which are basically just a book full of worksheets, but being neatly bound together, they seem much easier for me to manage overall.

Setting my preconceived notions aside, I jumped right into Super Teacher Worksheets as soon as my subscription was made available to me. I spent nearly an hour perusing the website and was shocked to find how thorough this collection of worksheets was! I can not possibly list the amount of worksheets available for immediate download, so I will share what I have earmarked for our use.

I went through the list and looked at subjects that we do not study formally but the kids still need the experience and knowledge, like map skills. I was also intrigued at the list of notable people, most of which we will cover at some point in our studies and will have the ability to have a way of reinforcing what is learned, such as Amelia Earhart (which happens to be Bookworm Beauty’s most recent obsession). In Science, there are worksheets on practical studies like Graduated Cylinders – Volume. We are studying physics this year and these worksheets intrigued me as it reinforces reading volumes with or without decimals. I love that I was able to print out multiple sheets at different age levels.

That brings me to another point! When I print out a reinforcing worksheets on something that we are learning together, it does not have to be a one-sized-fits-all! For example, with the graduated cylinders, each of the kids are at completely different age levels. I gave Bookworm Beauty the worksheets with decimals and the other two received worksheets without. Nearly every subject has worksheets in multiple levels of difficulty.

Probably the single greatest area of Super Teacher Worksheets is the worksheet generator. This is a fantastic tool and in my opinion would would make this website subscription worth it, all by itself. In the generator tools one could make word searches, fill in the blanks, crossword puzzles, multiple choice quizzes, flashcards and more! I immediately thought about the hours I spent making flashcards recently when we were memorizing the bones of the body, ahhhhh – so much time could have been saved!

The first worksheets I printed out were the multiplication worksheets. I decided that I would take a break from our normal math routine and change things up a bit. Remembering my own third grade year and how we focused on memorizing the multiplication facts, I decided that it would be a good time to work with Sweetness, who is now in third grade herself. There were multiple options for me to print out but I decided instead to use the worksheet generator tool. I created individual worksheets for reviewing the multiplication facts through 12. I was able to select the number of problems (50) the range of the first factor (whichever fact I wanted the focus to be on for that sheet) and the range of the second factor (I typed in 0-12), selected the option to save the worksheet in my online folder and then hit the create worksheet button. It was that simple! I created sixteen worksheets, one worksheet for each fact from 0-12. I know I did not need to create a worksheet for 0 or 1, and not really for 2, 5, or 10 either, but the kids especially enjoyed filling out the easy ones. It was fun watching them race the clock to write 50 0’s on the 0 worksheet!

My intention was to focus on Sweetness with the multiplication worksheets, but while I was working on creating the worksheets, Bookworm Beauty noticed what I was doing and asked if I would print out a set for her too, because she needed help with a few facts. It was a good thing too because although she soared through most of them, she did struggle with her 7’s and 8’s. She also never committed to memory any facts from 12-15. I was disappointed that the worksheet generator only allowed us to create facts to 12. I really wanted them to memorize through 15. I had to create my own sheets for 13-15, but ultimately, that is not a big deal. We are timing these worksheets and I am happy to say that Sweetness has successfully completed 0, 1, 2, and 3. She is working on them in order and has started the 4’s. We spent quite a bit of time on the 3’s. She knew the 3’s but hesitated and just was not completing them in the three minute time frame. I know, many people would consider that unnecessary but I really want basic math facts committed to memory.

Another set of worksheets that are available are on cursive writing. I would have taken the time to print off all of those worksheets but my mother in law is a retired elementary school teacher and had more cursive packets than we could ever use. I know that this is another controversial educational component but I believe that my kids should be able to read and write cursive with correct formation. Although I did not use these worksheets, I mention them because they are there and I would have used them if I did not have that resource covered.

Although I have had my opinions about worksheets, I have to be honest about something I have noticed with my own kids. I dislike the disorganization and clutter that worksheets create, but they simply love them! I realized that I really should allow more time in our school for them and decided that one of the best ways to do that is to allow the kids access to the website. Whenever we are studying something and they decide that they want a worksheet, they can login and find one that will work. They love this flexibility and the website is user-friendly enough to make that possible even for The Boy (7). I have a feeling I am just going to have to deal with the clutter that I see on the horizon!

Also worth noting, my kids really enjoy playing school with each other and with their friends. Bookworm Beauty is already talking about compiling some of the worksheets that are on Super Teacher Worksheets so that she can be the teacher the next time around. Hmmm, can I really find anything to complain about with that thought? In play, they are learning. Super Teacher Worksheets has changed my view of worksheets!