Homeschool Creations

Monday, August 31, 2009

StudyPod Book Holder {Review}


There are times during our school day when our kids need to share a book and it becomes difficult for them to see what we are studying. I've tried to find ways to prop and hold the book up for them, but it's always been unsuccessful. When I received the StudyPod book holder in the mail to review for the Homeschool Crew, I was ready to use it immediately!

The StudyPod book holder was developed to help students improve their study skills by organizing their study space and keep their hands free to use the computer or take notes. It holds both small and large textbooks and notes and it also has a space inside to store study tools.

Only a few quick steps are necessary to open and begin using the StudyPod since it folds up and stores as the size of a small book {closed it measures 6.75" x 9" x 1.33"}. We're able to store it easily on our shelves along with our books and school materials.

While I can try to explain it, this one minute video clip sums it up so much better than I can:

The StudyPod {$19.95} is available in black, pink and blue and is also sold as the BookPod {for those who aren't in school} is available in black, grey, and beige. You can purchase one for $19.95 or two for $16.95 each through the StudyPod Bookholder site. And as a bonus for all of you, there is a $5 off coupon code for orders from the website. Just enter the code TOSBLOG5 when you place your order and the $5 will be taken off your total.

I am going to love using this during our school time!

Click on the Homeschool Crew banner to read other reviews about this product.
As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was given this product to review,
and I do not have to return the product to the vendor. I was not paid for this post.
All opinions expressed in this post are mine.


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Sunday, August 30, 2009

A HUGE Thank You

I know that it's been a few weeks since the Curriculum Clean-Out ended but I wanted to say a HUGE thank you to all of you for helping to make it such a wonderful success!!

I'm thinking this may be something that we do again! :) Keep your eyes out for a little poll to be posted soon.

I just realized the other day {because I am still mailing off one of my packages...ahem} that I never let you all know how much I appreciated all you did to help out by blogging, tweeting and passing the word along to your friends.

You all are amazing!!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tot School ::31::

~ Kaleb is 34 months ~

Out of all the things that happened this week, the most exciting thing happened while we were sitting at the dinner table. Kaleb started telling us the sounds that different letters make. We pulled out some letter cards and went through the entire deck and he gave the sound for 20 out of the 26 letters.

Before you think I drill Kaleb the majority of the day {believe me it was a huge surprise to us!!}, I can honestly say it was all thanks to one little green dude {and no, he doesn't watch it all day long - usually every other day over the last 2 weeks or so}.

We can say this for certain because when he saw the letter 'W' he said, 'wuh, wuh, wuh, happy dude' - and we just started cracking up. I *heart* LeapFrog.

During the week, here a few things that we did:

Kaleb thought he was big stuff being able to get up on Laurianna's bed and spend some time reading with her.

We pulled out our felt board {just a piece of felt that I glued to the back of our white board} and Kaleb had fun sticking shapes up on the board. We had him put them up by colors, pull off ones as he identified them and line them up in a rainbow pattern.

If you look super close you'll see that there are alphabet letters in the rice box. Such grand plans Mommy had for this...and then Kaleb decided not to cooperate. A few days later I found the rice box on my bed {with rice everywhere} and Kaleb had pulled it out and dumped all the letters back out to play with. Now there is rice in my bed.

We borrowed some nesting dolls from my mom since Kaleb has been fascinated by them. I'm not sure what it is about them, but he loves them and will play with them every day.

Kaleb loves to stack and knock things down. The pegboard cracks him up since the pegs start leaning when they get too high.

That's all for pictures this week - and I am bound and determined to confiscate that binky of his so that the pictures are at least binky free next week! :) Don't forget to visit Carissa at 1+1+1=1 for some more Tot School posts.


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Friday, August 28, 2009

Preschool Corner: Lightbulb Moments

School time is finally getting into a 'groove' and routine for us, which is a HUGE relief for me. I'm not a big fan of anything chaotic and crazy, so it's nice to feel that we're settling in. Zachary is really enjoying having his workboxes and strips to help him along and knows his morning routine now too.

Even though I haven't really had the free time this week, I've been fiddling with graphics and html, and I made a new graphic for the Preschool Corner. If you've used the code on my sidebar to link to Preschool Corner, it should have already changed over for you! :)

This week I'm going back to breaking up what we did by subject/area since that's the way my lesson plans are laid out, they way I've done it in the past, and it's a lot easier to remember things that way. And just to let you know, in a few weeks I'm going to be teaching at our local co-op and will be sharing what I am teaching during that time too.


This week we talked about Adam and Eve and being obedient to God. It was actually a GREAT practical hands-on lesson and we walked through examples of what different actions were pleasing to God or ones that showed disobedience. Later in the day something came up and Zachary put two and two together with our lesson and had a 'lightbulb' moment, realizing that his choice was not the right one. {And Mommy shouts 'hurray!!}


Zachary is about impossible to stop in his math lessons lately. I had only planned to have him do a little at a time, but he gets upset when I try to have him stop.


This week we've been focusing on writing numbers up to the number 6 {more on the handwriting aspect of it, since he recognizes the numbers}, making sure he understands the difference between right and left, following simple one-step directions, and following directions ~ i.e color the shirt on the right green and the pants on the left red.

Zachary is also working on telling time to the hour using a standard clock {i.e. non-digital}. He had fun playing some bingo games and folder games that cover telling time too.


The two caterpillars that went into their chrysalis at the same time almost 2 weeks ago, both emerged on the same day and Zachary was able to help release one of them too. Both of the butterflies were boys, so the kids have been so excited that we had 'twin boys'. :)

Zachary also worked on finishing up his mini-book on a caterpillar's life cycle. See his little caterpillar on the cover?

Phonics & Reading

We've been working on the 'th' sound this week and the two different sounds that that blend makes {think of the words 'this' and 'things' and see how your tongue feels different when making those 'th' blends}. He's also working on the 'ng' sound.

During this year we'll be using the Rocket Phonics program with him and I'll be posting about his progress throughout the year. I'm really enjoy it at this point because it goes along very well with our spelling program.


For spelling this week, Zachary learned about counting syllables in words and how to build the 'ch', 'sh' and 'th' sounds. He also worked on spelling words with the short 'u' and short 'e' sound.

I would normally have him use the letter tiles on the board to spell the words, but since his two older sisters sit down and write theirs out...well, he wants to also.

Before we start our spelling for the day {using the letter tiles and the board}, I mess up a bunch of the letters and Zachary is getting quicker putting them all back into alphabetical order. Watching him mentally singing the ABC song to put them in the right order just cracks me up!


Since Zachary has a pretty good handle on his uppercase letters {they are at least recognizable}, we're working on lowercase letters and how they are formed. This week's focus was on the letters o, c, g, q, and d.


Some of the things we are doing in geography are a little above Zachary, but he still sits with us and listens along. He did help with our country meal - well, with the eating end of it, that is. :) We made Pico de Galo and he thoroughly enjoyed that.

About the Preschool Corner:

The Preschool Corner is a place for us to share the ideas we are using during our "preschool time" with our kids. You can join in the fun and record what you are doing in your house. Please link your exact blog post to the Mr. Linky below (if you have questions feel free to ask). Be sure to link back to this blog post so that your readers can find some other great ideas too!

The guidelines can be found here if you need them.

Share what you've been doing in your house this week!



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our {Getting There} Routine

Several of you have asked about our day and how it basically shapes up. If you would have asked me two weeks ago...well, let's just say that it looks a lot different today and we're still working out the kinks.

We started out doing a few things in the morning and then the bulk of our school in the afternoon, but it just wasn't working and I was about zilch on the productive scale around the house. After the first week I was extremely frustrated and decided to revamp the schedule and try to get the majority of school done in the morning.

We're in our second week of the 'new' schedule and it's working out much better. Our afternoons are free for me to do some things around the house {dinner prep, bread, laundry, etc...} and also to do fun stuff with the kids {games, more 1:1 time}. I'm able to relax a little more and just enjoy it ~ and that's half the battle. :)

This is a peek at our current day routine:

7:30 - 8:00 Kids have breakfast & get dressed. Depending on the morning, I'll sit with them and read a chapter from a book to them {right now we are reading through the Narnia series}. Essentially, when they are eating they are too busy chewing to talk, so it's fairly quiet reading. :)

8:00 - 8:30 Chores/Get ready for the day. They have five things to do before we start school time: Get dressed. Make their bed. Brush teeth and hair. Pick up their room. Choose an extra chore {start a load of laundry, vaccuum, sweep, clean up the bathroom, etc...}.

8:30 - 9:00 Independent work. The girls work on their handwriting sheet and math while I work with Zachary on his math and handwriting. We're all sitting at the table together if they have questions. Kaleb is also at the table with us usually coloring or working on an activity that I have for him.

9:00 - 9:30 Spelling and Language - I work with the girls on language every day and Zachary usually listens in on what we are doing. I alternate teaching the girls and Zachary spelling {girls are M/W and Zachary is Tu/Th - while I work with one, the others will play a game/workbox activity}. When we are doing spelling Kaleb likes to sit with us on the floor and play with the letters too. :) Otherwise, I have him near me working on something in his boxes ~ stringing beads, stacking blocks, or working with the girls.

9:30 - 10:00 Outdoor/Activity Time. If any of our subjects have run a little over, we push it into this time slot a little, but otherwise we take a walk, ride bikes, play outside or if the weather is yucky, have fun with the Wii.

10:00 - 10:15 Snack and Reading

10:15 - 11:00 Science and Bible. Again I alternate Bible and Science. Science is Tu/Thu and Bible is on Monday with the girls and Wednesday with Zachary. Kaleb will sometimes sit along with us at the table or I put a short video on for him and he will otherwise play by himself. If I am working with Zachary on Bible, the girls will work on independent reading or another activity/game that I have in their workboxes.

11:00 - 11:30 Geography. This is the time that we are sitting on the couch reading books together about the country we are studying, working on mapping activities, etc... Kaleb likes to sit on my lap or pull out his special school stuff to work on . :) Coloring...anything.

11:30 - 12:00 Free Time for older kids and 1:1 time for Kaleb. The older kids can either 'catch-up' on things that they couldn't finish earlier {reading or a worksheet, etc...}

12:00 - 12:30 Lunch and Reading. If I didn't read with the kids during breakfast, I'll sit with them and read a chapter from a book we're doing together.

12:30 - 1:00 - Game Time.

1:00 - 1:30 Outside or Table Time. Time to burn some energy off before Kaleb's nap...or if the weather is yucky we pull out our art supplies.

1:30 - 2:00 Art. Once Kaleb is in his room for nap, the older three and I have time for more involved art activities if there are any on the radar - otherwise, they are allowed to rotate through on the computer and they play together for a 'quiet time'.

2:00 - 2:30 Time with Laurianna. Because of the reviews that I do, this is the time that I have set aside if there is a product that doesn't fit into our normal day's routine...she gets to be the guinea pig. :)

Be sure to stop by and visit Darcy@My3Boybarians to check out a "Day in the Life" schedules from other homeschooling moms!



Monday, August 24, 2009

Web Design for Kids {Review}

If you've been visiting my blog for awhile, you know that I like to fiddle with my blog design and mess around with the html. While I can put together graphics and buttons, the html part of it can be a little tricky.

In all honesty I really don't know much about the ins and outs of html. I did take some books out from the library all about how to do the whole coding bit and well....they went right back to the library and I just made sure to back up my template whenever I started playing with stuff.

Because I got zilcho, nada, nothing out of all the books. Essentially, what I do know has all been through hit or miss trying, lots of mistakes, but no real instruction.

And if I am asked to explain it to others ~ let's just say, it's not something that I'm super comfortable with.

I received a wonderful DVD from Click Drag Solution to review called Web Design for Kids {and Curious Grown-Ups} that does an amazing job of walking your kids {and you...ahem} through some basic web design:
  • coding basic html
  • adding pictures to your web page
  • creating colored letters/fonts
  • personalizing your own web background
  • making text move across the screen
  • and more great tips!
I was the only one that watched the DVD since our kids aren't familiar enough with the keyboard yet to be able to type the coding in. It will be something that we will use later in the year as their typing skills improve and I know they are going to be excited about it. Because it is a DVD, you can pause as needed to keep up with the instructor and double check your coding.

Working along with the DVD is very easy and requires only a few basic pieces of software: Notepad and Internet Explorer/Firefox ~ both of which come free with Windows. It is recommended for ages 10 and up {possibly younger if your child knows his way around the keyboard} and is almost 90 minutes long. Here's a little peek at what to expect from the DVD:

The DVD is currently on sale for $19.99 {plus $3.99 s/h} and comes with a money back guarantee. Also, a portion of the DVD profits are distributed between five different charities ~ giving back to children and the community.

Web Design for Kids gives a great basic understanding of html and kids will feel encouraged and motivated quickly since they see the results right away! The websites your child develops are not uploaded anywhere unless you choose to host them somewhere ~ you can just preview what they would look like.

Just as a heads up...after having watched the DVD my mind has been racing and I can in no way guarantee that this blog will look the same much longer. So if you start seeing changes, it's because I picked up a few tricks from watching and now need to put them to good use!

Click on the Homeschool Crew banner to read other reviews about this product.
As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I was given this product to review,
and I do not have to return the product to the vendor. I was not paid for this post.
All opinions expressed in this post are mine.


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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tot School ::30::

~ Kaleb is 33 months ~

We're *almost* adjusted and getting into a routine with our school time for everyone. The older kids are more of the primary focus, so Kaleb gets the brunt of 'No Mommy Time' but we're still getting in some learning time together.

Here's a little peek into our week together:


Kaleb loves the paper clip matching game that we made and we practiced naming colors while getting the paper clips on.

When I pulled out the foam shape matching cards for Zachary {from Discovery Toys} Kaleb wanted to play along too. He eventually did match shapes up to make the 'clown' but first had fun naming some of the shapes and also stacking the circles together.

His arms are the side-effect of Mommy trying to do school time with Zachary while he found his markers and hid in the kitchen coloring ~ himself. :)

When you have two older sisters, chances are you are going to play dress up and be sucked into the world of ballet. {He is sooooo going to love me for these pics in the years to come!}


To go along with our caterpillar studies, Kaleb had fun coloring the caterpillar from Eric Carle's 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'.

Playing with our clothespin color swatch matching game and having fun naming colors.

Sorting all the pegs by color and then stacking them,


I found a mini-book geared toward little ones on the life cycle of the butterfly that has some cute graphics showing the caterpillar yawning and snuggling up in his chrysalis to go to sleep. Kaleb loved it and had fun telling me about the caterpillar {happy, sleepy, yawning, etc...}.

We pulled out our chalkboard this week too and Kaleb spent so much time drawing and coloring while we were doing school time with the bigger kids. He had fun drawing circles for me. :)


In one of the rare pictures of me {thanks to Zachary hijacking my camera}, Kaleb and I lined up the markers and he would tell me the name of the color after I stood them up. When he finished them all, he took GREAT joy in knocking them all over and the 'Do it again!!'


On Friday we played a bunch of games together and pulled out a Curious George balloon game I picked up. We couldn't play it the way we were supposed to since I bought it used and quite a few pieces were missing. Instead, Kaleb would name the colors I held up and then match them to the right balloon.

That's it for this week! Don't forget to visit Carissa at 1+1+1=1 for some more Tot School posts.


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Preschool Corner: The Butterfly Version

This week, the big news {and excitement} was butterflies!! All of the kids have been fascinated watching our caterpillars grow like crazy and we were able to watch two of them go into their chrysalis at the same time.

A little later in the week, we watched as one of our earlier chrysalis broke and thought we had a little tragedy on our hands. If you want to read a little more about it, you can read about the Birth of a Butterfly on No Ordinary Moments.

BUT...after a little intervention, we had our first butterfly - a girl! In the pictures below you can see one of the caterpillars a few hours before the big change {top left}. The butterfly that emerged is shown in the other three pictures ~ if you look closely, you can see the crumpled wing that she was sporting because she couldn't get herself completely released from the chrysalis without some help.

Zachary pulled out his journal to draw a picture of our caterpillar tank. For some reason he drew four chrysalis'. If you can see the black dots at the bottom of the picture....well, the caterpillars do leave a lot of poop around. :) Of course, he would choose to draw that!

We also talked about the life cycle of a butterfly {in addition to watching it up close and personal!}. Zachary made a little 'book' that he had to sequence in the correct order. Yes, I know he's coloring the egg black...but he thought it was poop. Again. And really, with the amount in our tank, I can't blame the poor kid!

Zachary also had fun working on a butterfly life cycle maze.

Some great butterfly books/printables and sites:
Zachary is really enjoying having more 'school time' this year and begs to do certain things with me ~ spelling being the main thing! We do the majority of his spelling time on the whiteboard with our tile letters, but he wanted to write on paper like the girls this week too!

Our fruit and veggie cards also made an appearance this week too. I gave Zachary all the veggies along with the matching word cards and he sorted them out and matched the picture up with the name card by sounding them out.

Patterns and figuring out how to create a shape using various other shapes was something else that Zachary really enjoyed too this week. He started out by creating several bugs, shapes, and kept pulling out cards to complete until I had to take them away...

That's the quick 'sum-up' in our house this week! :) Can't wait to see what's been happening in your preschool time!

About the Preschool Corner:

The Preschool Corner is a place for us to share the ideas we are using during our "preschool time" with our kids. You can join in the fun and record what you are doing in your house. Please link your exact blog post to the Mr. Linky below (if you have questions feel free to ask). Be sure to link back to this blog post so that your readers can find some other great ideas too!

The guidelines can be found here if you need them.

Share what you've been doing in your house this week!



Geography Games and Activities

Check out my latest article at Heart of the Matter Online ~ all about geography activities and ideas for your kids!



You Asked! ::2::

I answered a few of your questions a few weeks ago and after that had another round of questions that were asked about various things. If your email address is linked to your comment, I do try to reply to you ~ but sometimes the questions are asked by several people so I'll occasionally answer questions in post form too so everyone can see the answers.

Today's questions are focusing on blogging tips ~ just a few though. Quite a few of you asked about making your own blog buttons and I'll have to go through that step-by-step another time {or point you in the direction of another great post about it!}.

Q: How do you change your blog layout or template without messing everything up? I hate using the standard blogger template but I am afraid to mess something up and lose all my work!

A: I have a 'test blog' - it's hidden so nobody can see the mess that it is. My test blog was created so I could freely play around with the html or template and not worry about wreaking blog havoc. On my test blog, I try out new buttons, headers, or layouts BEFORE I actually make the switch on either of my blogs ~ and it has saved me from a lot of trouble. :) Since you can create free blogs with Blogger - it wasn't a big deal to create it. Once I know it is safe, I can easily cut/paste the html and update my actual blog without worry.

And always be sure to back up your template before making any changes. Always. I have a Word document saved in my files with the current html for both of my blogs. Just in case. And we won't even talk about the fact that I messed up my blog because I didn't follow my own instructions once. Nope, we won't.

Q: How do I add those "you might like..." boxes?

A: This is so very easy. Visit the Link Within website and they will literally walk you through the process. You enter your email, blog address, and what blogging platform you use and click "get widget".

You can either use the code they provide and add your own widget following their directions, or you can let them do it for you. It's that easy!

Q: How did you get your blog to three columns?

A: Really, the answer isn't something you are going to like. How I did it ~ and how I'll recommend you do it are two completely different things. I have a bad habit of fiddling with my html. Very bad. Especially since I just play and learn and to stop and tell you what I did or how I did it....I'm not always entirely sure.

Here are a few places I would recommend that you check for free templates of 3 column blog templates:
There are a few places to get you going - but you will have to install the code yourself. :) Have fun looking!


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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

About My Reviews

I DO post reviews and there is a lot of talk in the blogworld about the entire reviewing issue ~ and integrity in blog reviews. SO, while it's at the front of my mind, I'm laying it all out in front of you, so you know where I am coming from and where I stand on the issue.
  • I review products for other companies. Sometimes, those products are a part of the Homeschool Crew from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and sometimes other companies contact me independently to share about their product. I am NOT paid to review a product. I do receive the actual product {otherwise, I won't review it} and many times a company will give me an extra to use as a 'giveaway' on my blog.
  • Reviews for other companies, including those as a part of the Homeschool Crew will always be identified as such.
  • I often post reviews about products and items that we personally use as a family and love. This includes toys, books, music, etc... These reviews are just my opinions on random things. Basically, it's just me blabbing on about something I love - similar to us sitting around a table sharing fun stuff.
  • I will ALWAYS {can't stress this enough} give my honest opinion on a product. I have reviewed some things that our family has absolutely loved and some that we weren't super-thrilled with. Either way, I am not going to lie about a product, but tell you what I really think about it.
  • My site has numerous links to various stores. There is a good chance that some of these are affiliate links. That means if you click on them and purchase something using that link I get a small percentage of the sale. You don't have to click on them, but you are more than welcome to {and I thank you if you do}.
  • If you are interested, I have a full disclosure policy posted on my blog.
Basically, it boils down to this ~ I don't write to make money from advertising or to receive products for free. I write to share my thoughts and to interact with you {my readers}. That's it ~ bottom line.

Phew. There it is for you all. Any questions?


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Fun Shelving

Want to see a fun idea for shelving in your home? Check out my other blog, No Ordinary Moments, to see what we put up in our homeschool area!