It’s Not as Simple as the Birds and the Bees

***WARNING*** This post contains some written content that may not be appropriate for young children.

Reviewing Sex by Design by Abby Ludvigson has been the hardest review for me to complete. This product brings to light everything that as a parent I would rather avoid or ignore, but yet I know is one of the most important topics to address with my children, before the world does.

The Film Series Set (available for $55) includes the Parent Guidebook, Teen Guidebook and the DVD with seven lecture-style segments presented by Abby herself. We received both the Parent and Teen Guidebooks and the presentations were made available to us electronically. Nothing was spared when the guidebooks were created. Both are beautifully crafted, full-color softcover books that are big enough to be workbooks and small enough to easily carry with you.

Now to the nitty gritty… I have my own testimony, I was a wild child and teenager and by the Grace of God I was saved from that life when I was 17 years old. Although saved, I still walked in familiar ways until I married at 19 and had my first child at 20. It was then that I got serious about faith, marriage and parenting. Living the life I did, one would think that sex would be an easy topic to discuss with my children. It isn’t. I have not become so prudish that I cannot utter the word without blushing, but I just have a hard time getting around to discussing it directly with the kids. That three letter word was blaring on the front cover of the guidebooks and I wanted to hide them. I’m not naive; I was not really trying to hide them but I wanted the freedom to look the books over myself before introducing them to the kids and Bookworm Beauty (12) specifically.

Fabulous resources, such as this Sexual Exposure Chart is available at http://abbyludvigson.com/

Bookworm Beauty is right at the tipping point age. Having already raised three daughters, I have noticed that everything seems to change at 12. Homeschooling has helped quite a bit, as it has provided some insulation from the world’s beliefs, but exposure to all things unholy is nearly impossible to avoid.

With that in mind, I settled in to look over the guidebooks and took the time to watch all seven segments of the study. I am glad that I took the time to do so. Although this program is perfectly appropriate for most children ages 12 and older, some may not be ready for the content and unfortunately some may be ready at an even earlier age. For us, Bookworm Beauty is a late bloomer. She is smart and mature about many things and then there are things that she is still so very naive about. Sex is one of those things. Although there is some knowledge, full awareness is not there.

Watching the segments by myself has fully prepared me for working through this program with Bookworm Beauty. I am not worried about being blindsided by a topic that I was not prepared to address, such as oral sex or pornography. I have a solid idea of what I need to share with her to prepare her for this study. I appreciated each and every segment. There was not a single segment that felt incomplete or unnecessary. Although short and concise, they were perfect. The seven segments include: Plan Ahead: Living Pure in a Sex-Saturated Culture; Counting the Cost: Every Decision Has a Price Tag; Dating: Doing Relationships God’s Way; Sex: God’s Purpose and Plan; Modesty: God Cares What I Wear; Pornography: It’s Deception & Steps to Get Out or Stay Out; and Secondary Virginity: Running Back to God.

Each segment of discussion is approximately twenty minutes long. Abby is great about stating facts. She does not shy away from discussing topics that need to be addressed. After watching the segment, we are directed to discuss it together and then complete the guidebook. There is a place in the guidebook to review the film, there are also applicable bible verses, topics for further discussion, an area to personalize what was learned and a challenge to apply the segment. After working through the segment in the guidebook, I would like to review the additional resources available on Abby’s website.  Our plan is to cover the seven segments over the next few months and encourage her to think biblically about herself and her sexuality. My prayer is that she will value herself enough to honor God and choose purity.

Fabulous resources, such as this Purity Pledge is available at http://abbyludvigson.com/

My plans are to spend a full day with her, just her and I. I had planned on doing this already but we ended up tending to a round of colds in the home. Although it delayed things, it allowed me to be better prepared for our upcoming mother-daughter time where we will cover the details about sex. I would rather avoid this, but I know that it is important that she be given facts by someone she trusts, not half-truths or falsities from other tweens. After our discussion, we will jump right into the first segment of the Sex by Design study. I am absolutely confident that she will like Abby, which makes learning from her so much easier. She will certainly see her as hip, young, funny and most importantly, Godly.

I am thankful for this resource. I am thankful that it is direct and thorough. I am also thankful for the reminder that we are the most influential people in our children’s lives. I would definitely recommend Sex by Design for anyone with tweens or teens.

Weaving God’s Word Into Your Tweens: A Review

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

As a Christian homeschooling parent, I can get overzealous and overload my children with bible studies. Constantly reminding myself that too much of a good thing can just be too much, I am careful of what I add to their educational plates. Most bible studies I have found are good, some are better, and then there is Weave Your Word in Me — Part 1 by Kid Niche Christian Books.

There is much for me to share about what I like about this bible study consumable designed for Tweens and based upon the Lord’s Prayer. More than anything else worthy of noting is that it’s based upon the Lord’s Prayer, teaching children to learn the underlying truth’s of the Jesus’ prayer and applying it to their lives today. I like love that, a lot.

We were heading to a volleyball game the day that we received the package. Bookworm Beauty was the one to get the mail that day. I knew what was in the package and let her open it. It was a wonderful thing to witness her opening it because she was honestly not that thrilled about another bible study. Yet, as she opened the package, everything in her demeanor changed from indifferent to excited! Inside of the envelope was a beautifully wrapped package. This study could have been thrown into an envelope just fine and would still be just as valuable but the wrapping details made it appear important and special, just like the gift of God Himself. She carefully unwrapped the additional packaging, now treating it as if it were a special gift, just for her.

Inside were the full-sized loose leaf binder ready pages that make up the study. Quickly recognizing the possibility of pages getting damaged, she rewrapped them in the corrugated wrap until we got home. We decided that instead of a binder, we would laminate the cover pages and coil bind the study to make a book that will protect the pages while remaining less cumbersome than a binder. I realized that a binder would allow the ability to add note pages as well, but also recognized that pages are so easily torn out and misplaced. Creating a workbook made it possible for her to keep the study in her bed where she wanted it, to study at the end of the day.

We received the Part 1 of the Weave Your Word in Me study. The 36 lessons each have bible verses to read and fill-in-the-blank sentences to complete, as well as questions to inspire thought. The lessons end with a fill-in-the-blank My Prayer box that allows the child to personalize their pray. When they recite the prayer, they are essentially praying the Lord’s Prayer, customized by themselves. It’s beautiful and special.

There is a Part 2 of the Weave Your Word in Me study that has an additional 44 lessons that are also centered on the Lord’s Prayer. Each individual study is available for $20 or a combined pack is available for $30.

Bookworm Beauty has thoroughly enjoyed this study. Unlike many other studies out there, this one is short, concise, and to the point, yet lacking in nothing overall. She can complete a lesson in around 15 minutes, which she typically does at bedtime. I am not sure if she is going to request the Part 2 guide upon completing Part 1 or if she is going to desire the Pray-Like-Jesus Prayer Journal for Teens also by Susan Case Bonner and Kid Niche Christian Books. Either way, we are impressed!

 

Innovative and Ergonomic Educational Tools

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

One of the bittersweet moments of partnering with The Homeschool Review Crew takes place when I get to review something that I wish I had when my children were at the appropriate age for the particular product. I had one of these moments when selected to review The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit by The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Although both of the products were a hit in our house, I am going to start with scissors in my review for no reason other than their uniqueness. Having raised six children, I have experienced many moments of frustration with scissor use, everything from scissors being too dull to be effective for little hands to being sharp enough to cut hair and anything else that they can find! Pencil Grip’s Ultra Safe Safety Scissors has provided a solution to those many woes.

At first glance, the scissors looked awkward, but after sliding a piece of paper into the paper guide I experienced one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moments. The scissors are small enough for smaller hands to grip properly and the blades are sharp enough to actually provide a clean cut. The guide keeps small fingers from making contact with the sharp blades, as well as toys or anything else that you do not want to be cut by the hands of a young child with scissors!

Although my children are well beyond the stage of needing monitoring with scissors, we still enjoyed using them, all of us. They worked well for all of us, better than many of the scissors we have accumulated over the years. The blade protection did not seem to inhibit a good clean cut even when doing some detailed cutting. However, it did get in the way of tiny cuts but we did not think that tiny detailed cutting would be necessary for younger children.

We really liked the scissors, but we are all skilled at using them. I decided that I needed to know how well they worked for someone with tiny hands so I headed over to a friend’s house to enlist the help of her four year old for our test. Little Ruby was handed both scissors and a piece of paper and she began cutting with ease! After sharing the I-wish-we-had-these-with-the-other-kids conversation with her momma, it was decided that the scissors were no longer mine but theirs. They have another toddler that will soon be cutting anything within reach and I know that these scissors will be very much appreciated.

In short, the Ultra Safe Safety Scissors has made my gift list for anyone I know with young children. They are available for a mere $4, which rivals the cost of child scissors anywhere.

The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit was treated with just as much delight in our home. The only real difference is that they have not left our home to live elsewhere! Like the scissors, all of my children have learned the proper writing formation and no longer need these kinds of tools.

There are three different rubber grips that slip onto the bottom of a pen or pencil to teach a child to properly grip it for writing. We spent some time at the table, trying each of them out. For us, it was a confirmation that we all hold our writing utensils properly. Afterwards, each of my three children confiscated one of the grips and has it in their pencil box. I see it come out once in a while.

I used the old fashioned large round kindergarten style pencils to teach my younger children proper writing formation. I do wish that we had something like these pencil grips instead. Each grip has a specific shape to reinforce proper positioning of fingers when writing. The first one is called their Crossover Grip and holds the fingers where they need to be. The second one is their Pinch Grip which is considered the transition grip and has a little less structure allowing a bit more freedom. The final one is their Pencil Grip which allows for more freedom and is comfortable enough to be useful for all ages.

The grip set is available for purchase online for approximately $8. Packages of individual grips are also available. We do not have any lefthanders in our home to test it out but they are known to work with both right-handed and left-handed writers.

We thoroughly enjoy the fun products that we get to periodically review. It was a delight to be able to test out products from Pencil Grip, Inc. They have a nice variety of innovative tools for learners of all ages!

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!