Friday, December 28, 2012

Still Sick

I have really been sick this entire month.  I am now recovering from pneumonia...and woke up this morning with a sore throat, headache and all stuffed up. So now I have something new on top of the pneumonia.  UGH  The doctor told me it would be 4-6 weeks until I felt like myself again.  It is very frustrating to be sick for so long.  I can't exercise and I just don't feel good.  Last winter my husband had the flu followed by pneumonia but he was so much more ill than I am.  He ended up in the hospital.  I have still been able to be up and around so I feel guilty if I just rest (so I haven't) and maybe this is why it is taking so long for me to get better.

So, I am dressed in sweats and planning to just rest today.  I would ask for your prayers as I recuperate.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas in New York City

Today is my daughter, Rachel's 17th birthday.  Just over a week ago, my husband and I took her (and our 18 year old daughter) to New York City.  For her birthday and Christmas present she wanted to see The Lion King on Broadway.  It was too expensive to buy tickets for all of us so my husband went to the show with Rachel and Erin and I walked around looking at the shop windows.

I was sick as a dog.  I had a virus (still trying to get over it).  I decided at the last minute that I would go. I had been running a temperature over 101 for a couple of days and had a bad cough.  I saw a doctor on Friday that assured me it wasn't bronchitis or pneumonia and that if I felt up to it I could go. On the morning we went I was feeling a little better so I took some ibuprofen and cough pills and we headed out.  We drove to the train station about an hour and 15 minutes from here.  When we arrived I started feeling really dizzy.  On the train platform I also started feeling nauseated and like I might pass out. I was sweating off the fever from the ibuprofen and I had to take my coat off, squat down and lean against the wall. The train finally came and we got on. I felt sick for the entire 97 minute train ride.  I didn't know what I was going to do.  Fortunately, once we got off the train and I started moving around I started feeling a little better.

We walked directly to Macy's.  Macy's is ENORMOUS!  Once inside, we had quite a time even finding our way back out. The store windows were pretty cool though.

Outside Macy's

Another view of Macy's


Inside Macy's
Inside Macy's

One of the windows at Macy's
One of the windows at Macy's

We walked up Broadway and Rob and Rachel got some lunch at a pizza place.  Erin and I figured we'd get something later while they were at the show.  After eating, we all headed over to Rockefeller Center.  We took this picture on the way.Someone offered to snap the picture and didn't run away with the camera which was a plus.

Rob and I with Erin and Rachel

This was really a cool display.

Tree at Rockefeller center
The tree at Rockefeller Center in the afternoon

This was in the afternoon when the crowds were "light".  Later on I got "trapped" in here. I was afraid we'd get crushed or trampled.  I was so glad to get out of there.
The skating rink in Rockefeller Center

Not long after it was time for Rob and Rachel to head to the show and Erin and I headed out with a map to see a variety of store windows and do some shopping.  I dragged her all over the city (remember I was the sick one!).

I can't remember which store this was. I think it was Saks.  It had little feathers floating all around.  It looked like snow but it doesn't show in the picture.
This was my favorite window. I believe it was at Saks.
You can't see it in the photo but,feathers were flying all inside the window making it look like snow.

This display (again I "think" it was at Saks) was really cool.  different sections would tip and turn to make the snow globes work.
This was another cool one at Saks.
It featured snow globes.

Central Park
Central Park
(We said "g'day squirrels"-You have to be a Wiggles fan to get that.)
Erin and I walked a lot. We went to Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman's, Williams and Sonoma. We were at FAO Schwarz but we didn't go in...the line was LONG.  I did get us turned around a couple of times adding to the walking. We were hungry, thirsty and tired!  We finally walked back to Grand Central Station so I could find a shop that I was looking for to get Katie some socks.  I thought maybe we'd get something to eat there but we didn't see anything we wanted.  So, we headed back toward Rockefeller Center (heading in the wrong direction...again.....all my fault).  We finally got there.  It was SO crowded.  We got stuck in a crowd and I was very close to having a panic attack.(not that I've ever had one but I felt very panicky) I thought we might get trampled or crushed.  I was SO happy to get out of there.  We were supposed to meet back up with Rob and Rachel at a designated spot in Rockefeller Center but I couldn't get there if I tried.  I called Rob and told him I was outside Radio City music hall.  It took a while but we were finally reunited and walked back to Grand Central.  I was never so happy to get on a train and head home.  (Erin and I were able to get some water and a pretzel at Rockefeller Center.)

It really was pretty.
The tree was really beautiful at night.
(too many people at night though)
When we left the city I was thinking that I could check visiting NYC at Christmas off my bucket list never to go back.  However, I am looking forward to another trip to NYC.  I would just do some things differently.  I really would like to go to Radio City next year.

Oh, and Rachel loved The Lion King.  She thought it was amazing.  Yay!

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't posted a menu plan in a while.  I don't know about you, but this is the worst time of the year for meal planning for me. (Summer is a close second though). Half the time, I have no idea what we're eating at 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  It is so annoying to me. I can never get it all together when I'm so busy.  Tonight we didn't even really eat a meal.  I was out in the afternoon and then we decided to take the kids to the mall and to see Christmas lights. I ate an orange for supper. I figured I should plan some meals for the rest of the week so I don't drive myself crazy. :)


Here goes:

Monday: whatever  :)

Tuesday: Chicken and broccoli casserole

Wednesday: Homemade pizza and chips

Thursday: Eat out

Friday: Corn Chowder and rolls

Saturday:  Fluffy Greens and Cheese Frittata

Sunday: leftovers or sandwiches

Link up your own menu plan at  (Or just find great ideas from other bloggers that share their menus.) This week is found here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stick with it Saturday

Well I have nothing to report on the fitness front.  I have been sick for 2 weeks and I've done absolutely NOTHING.  I just couldn't. I'm starting to feel better so I hope to start running again sometime in the near future.

I have been having a few good weeks at the scale.  I have lost a total of 92 lbs now!  I'm hoping to really stay on track every day with a few treats tomorrow when I get together with my BFF for Christmas and then again on Christmas Day.  Outside of that, I plan to stick with my program.  I am .2  lbs from the end of the year goal I set for myself a few weeks ago!

Link up your own diet/exercise post over at Sam's Noggin.

Monday, December 10, 2012

100 Bible Verses in 2013

I am so excited about this upcoming adventure that I wanted to share it on my blog.  I recently signed up with a group of ladies to learn 100 Bible Verses in 2013.  The verses are from the book 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart by Robert J. Morgan.  Though I didn't have to purchase the book to participate it looked like it would be good so I purchased it for my Kindle.  I'm glad that I did.


I am really looking forward to this challenge.  I am familiar with a lot of the verses and feel confident that I CAN do this.  I can't wait to get started.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Blog break

I've been taking a bit of a blog break because I've been busy and now I'm sick.  I'm running a 101+ temp and have a nasty cough.  We have plans in New York City tomorrow and I'm supposed to be singing next week in a cantata (where I am the only alto in a small ensemble).  I covet your prayers.  I hope to be back to blogging this week!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stick with it Saturday

It's Stick with it Saturday and I'm barely squeaking in with a post for Saturday.  I had a good week at Weight Watchers...down 2.4 lbs for the week for a total of 89 lbs lost.  (I am back up 2 since Thanksgiving but I'm not worried.  It will come off.  I didn't go totally crazy and usually after a "big" loss it takes my body a while to adjust.)

Now for the big news: I went running today!  It's the first time in weeks and weeks.  I am so happy.  My back doesn't hurt any more than it did before I went.  I'm having some pain in my right foot, but that isn't worse either.  I've been making more of an effort to get my 10,000 steps in too.

Goal for the week: stay on track with my eating, walk 10,000 + steps a day and try to run 2 times this week.

Link up your own diet/exercise post over at Sam's Noggin.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In our homeschool this week…

Emma's wetu

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

Dentists, oral surgeon, dinner/shopping with my best friend, organ lesson, piano lesson, church, cantata practice, choir rehearsal, grocery shopping.....It was a crazy busy week!

My favorite things this week …

Having my oldest daughter home for 5 days.

I bought an electric tea kettle this week after not having a tea kettle for a very long time.  I love this little kettle.


Things I’m working on…
knitting- I have several projects in the works.  I love to knit!

sour dough starter-I have been trying some different recipes with a wild yeast sour dough starter that I started just over a week ago.

I’m reading…

finished reading  Letting Go

King Alfred's English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do. This is a fascinating book!  Check it out.

I’m cooking…

Sour dough waffles with my starter.


Link up your own Homeschool Mother's Journal post.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Read Aloud Challenge

I think this is week 4 of the Read Aloud Challenge, but I haven't posted since week one.  As I've mentioned in some recent posts we didn't have power after Hurricane Sandy and then I just didn't feel much like being online.  However, I really want to read to the kids...and this helps to keep my accountable! :)

Sadly, we are still working on reading At the Back of the North Wind.  I can't say that I "love" this book but I do intend to finish it.  I think it is kind of slow moving.  I am hoping that it is going to have some fantastic ending or something. :)

I also started reading Stories of the Pilgrims and hope to read some other Thanksgiving stories this week too.


Some of the kids have been listening to Your Story Hour CDs at bedtime too.

This is really all I've been reading right now. I need to make a point of reading more picture books to the younger kids!

Join Debra at Footprints in the Butter with your own Read Aloud post (or be inspired by what others are reading.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't linked up in a couple of weeks.  Two weeks ago we didn't have power because of the hurricane and last week I was taking a bit of an internet break.  This is a busy week so it will be good to have a plan.

Monday: Spaghetti (I ended up having a Weight Watchers Mexican Beans and Rice dish with veggies)

Tuesday: I'm going out with a friend.  The family will have either BLT soup or Cheesy Tomato soup

Wednesday: Sweet and Sour chicken and rice

ThursdaySpicy Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder with Ham and rolls

Friday: Pizza and chips

Saturday: Fluffy Greens and Cheese Frittata

Sunday: leftovers or something easy like sandwiches or pancakes

Link up your own menu plan at  (Or just find great ideas from other bloggers that share their menus.) This week is found here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week…

I didn't post last week because I honestly had no interest in being online.  Hurricane Sandy blew through on Monday leaving us without power for 48 hours.  Our internet was out for another 12 after that.  Once the internet was restored, I spent a considerable amount of time looking at pictures and videos of the damage in our area....and then, I just didn't even care about logging on.  I spent a lot of time reading as you'll see below :).  I feel like maybe I have a bit better balance with my computer time now. This week I was able to rejoin the internet but not feel like it was sucking me in.

My favorite thing this week was…

My family--

Celebrating my son, Ryan's 13th birthday (6th) and my daughter, Ellie's 5th birthday (which will be on the 14th) today with a family birthday party.



My daughter Rebecca came home for a long weekend visit.

Teaching my 9 year old to play Quiddler.  I hadn't played in ages and it was a lot of fun.

I’m reading…

Last week I finished Vintage Remedies Guide to Baking Bread (interesting, excellent read)
Since last weekend I've read Truffles by the Sea, A Tailor- Made Bride, Courting Morrow Little, The Lord is My Shepherd: The Psalm 23 Mysteries.  I'm half way through Letting Go.  I've enjoyed all of these books.  I LOVED Courting Morrow Little.  All of these books were free for on my Kindle at some point.  I've had my Kindle for almost 2 years.  I just love it.

Tonight I purchased King Alfred's English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do.  I've read really good things about this book so I'm looking forward to reading it.

I’m grateful for…

Power and heat, a nice home to live in with my family...plenty of food.  All things I take for granted much too often.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…

This beautiful scene was taken just days after Hurricane Sandy.  You can't tell from this picture the havoc that was wreaked up and down the coast.  I could have shared a picture of the destruction, but this stuck out to me and so here it is.

The heavens declare the glory of God
and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.

Link up your own Homeschool Mother's Journal.

Teaching Kids to Sing DVD/CD set

Have you ever wished you could afford voice lessons for you child or that you could teach your child to sing at home?  With Teaching Kids to Sing 2-DVD/1-CD Set from The Vocal Coach you can!

Teaching Kids to Sing is a great way to teach your children (and you) about the child's voice. All the foundations from posture, breathing, tone, rhythm, diction and more is explored and demonstrated.

The cast includes Chris and Carole Beatty, creators and founders of The Vocal Coach and a group of children ages 5 to 13.

Chris and Carole Beatty have taught and coached
 thousand of students over the last 40 years.

Building Foundations That Last DVD covers:


This video has 8 segments. It has a run time of 43 minutes. Students learn 2 songs, a breathing rap and 4 warm ups (also found on the CD).

Essential Skills for Growing Voices DVD covers:


This video has 9 segments and a run time of 31 minutes.  Students learn 2 songs and 4 warm ups.

TKS Accompaniment Tracks CD provides 26 demo and accompaniment tracks.  The tracks alternate between demo and accompaniment.  Track 1 has "I'm an Upright Child of the King" with vocals.  Track 2 has the same song without vocals.  I would prefer the tracks to be grouped together as demo and accompaniment, but the kids don't seem to mind it this way. (The CD contains all the music used on both DVD's.) The lyrics to the songs are included on a piece of paper within the case.

They have a very helpful section of their website with tips for homeschools and a great blog with lots of free advice for improving your singing. This homeschool section is excellent and really not to be missed.

We are a musical family.  We sing and play instruments.  I have also been a choir director and I've just started a new choir at our church.  I like these videos because even though I learned most of this in my years of singing (under some excellent teachers) I don't always remember how to teach these. These videos can be used at home or in groups (such as children's choirs).

One suggested way to use these DVDs/CD is to spend one week on each topic.  We have chosen to just watch the videos repeatedly and glean something new each time.

One thing we didn't like about these videos is that a couple of the demonstrations are exaggerated and therefore not believable.  In one case, Mr. Beatty picks up a guitar and demonstrates how much better he can sing and play while standing up straight as opposed to bending over the guitar.  Clearly, he could sing and play much better when bent over than he pretended do.  It didn't ring true for any of us.  I get the point he was trying to make, but we didn't appreciate that demonstration.

Outside of that, I love the songs and I think the teaching is excellent. I think any child would benefit from these lessons. These videos are from a Christian perspective and I do appreciate that.  I constantly have one of the songs in my head that I mentioned earlier, "I'm an Upright Child of the King".

Purchase Teaching Kids to Sing on 2-DVD/1-CD for $44.99. Check out The Vocal Coach for other singing products. They also offer personal coaching.


See what others are saying about  Teaching Kids to Sing and Vocal Coach Singer (for junior high to adult) on The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


disclaimer: I received  Teaching Kids to Sing on DVD in exchange for an honest review

Stick with it Saturday

It's Stick with it Saturday again and though I'm sticking to my Weight Watchers eating plan I am not exercising at all. One day this week I didn't even wear my pedometer! UGH  I really miss running.  Maybe I should try again and see how my back holds up.  I have lost a little more weight.  I'm down 86.4 lbs now.

Goal for the week: stay on track with my eating and move at least a little!

Link up your own diet/exercise post over at Sam's Noggin.

Primary Arts of Language (PAL) from IEW

I am so excited to finally be posting this review for Primary Arts of Language (PAL) from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Not only is this my hands down favorite review product ever, but it's also my favorite curriculum for teaching reading and writing and I've used a lot of different things in the 15 years we've been homeschooling.


We received the complete PAL reading and writing package which includes all of the following:


Primary Arts of Language: Phonetic Farm folder with Stickers

Primary Arts of Language: Writing Teacher’s Manual
Primary Arts of Language: Writing DVD-ROM

All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit
All About Spelling Level 1 (Teacher’s Manual and One Student Material Packet) By Marie Rippel

We also received the following MP3 Audios:
The Four Language Arts Nurturing Competent Communicators, and
Dictation, Narration, and Public Speaking  by Andrew Pudewa
Poetry as an Integrator and Intro to the Blended Sound Sight Program by Anna Ingham
Reading Comprehension  by Adam Andrews
Units 1 and 2 in the K–2 Classroom and Unit 3 in the K–2 Classroom MP3 Audio by Shirley George
Preparing the K-2 Writing Environment MP3 Audio by Richelle Palmer

When the package arrived it seemed like it could be a bit overwhelming.  However, I popped in the Instructional Video (included on the DVD-ROM) and author Jill Pike does a great job of explaining how to get started.  I found it very easy to just jump right in and get started.  PAL arrived on Saturday and we started using it first thing Monday morning.  Besides watching the video, I also started listening to the incredible audios that were included. These are inspiring for all homeschoolers and I highly recommend them.

When using the complete PAL program you have everything you need to teach reading, writing and spelling.  While the different parts of the program can be used separately, they are meant to be used in conjunction with each other.

Because there is just so much to cover, I recommend you watch this free webinar for an overview and you can watch this 3 minute video with Jill Pike and Andrew Pudewa that explains where to begin:

Click on this link if the embedded video doesn't appear:

I thought the easiest way to share PAL with you would be to show you what a typical day of PAL looks like for us. We don't always follow the same order, but this is a rough idea of how the day goes.


I begin by opening the reading and writing guides and setting them next to each other.  I have an island so I stand on one side of the island while kids are on the other side.  I have a white board on my refrigerator.


I usually begin by writing in our classroom journal (a composition notebook).  The kids can tell me what they want me to write and I add things that I think are important.

Next, we work on our writing lesson.  In the early lessons, every lower case letter is taught with a letter story.  I can't tell you how wonderful these stories are in helping the kids to remember the letters.  Here is a sample of pictures of some of the stories.  There are cards that can be printed for each letter.

Each letter has its own name and story.  For example, d is the doggy letter.
You start by making his head and then his tail goes straight up and you go back down again.

Printable pdf worksheets are included on the Writing DVD-ROM.  Teachers are encouraged to have students practice on a white board before moving to paper. (My kids love this.) At first, the students write in blocks without any lines.  Later, they move to writing on lines using a house to guide the height of the letters with a main floor, and attic and a basement.  (You can see what I mean in the picture above with the Teacher Guides.)  Once students learn all of the lowercase letters they move on to the capitals, then finally numbers.  

3 of my children are using PAL.  Ellie (almost 5), Jenna (7) and
Connor (11 with Down syndrome)
We then do our Poetry Lesson. (Sometimes we start with poetry.)  I read the poem (or have the kids recite it once they've learned it) and then there are notes in the teacher's book as to what to do with the poem that day.  You might have things to underline or look for, you might draw a picture of it or act it out.  I've never been a big fan of poetry, but PAL has really changed my mind on this.  For the first time ever, I am enjoying poetry and love the way PAL uses the poetry to integrate what we are learning.

A major component of PAL are the file folder games.    The Phonetic Games, among other things, really set PAL apart from any other reading program.  It took me about a week to completely assemble all of the games.  This included taking the book apart, copying it and storing the originals in a 3-ring binder.  I could have saved time by just cutting the games out as we needed them but I preferred to have them all set ahead of time (and to copy them so if anything happened to one I could make another one.)

I have the games stored in a file folder box that I purchased for this purpose.  I also keep our classroom journal and some supplies in the box.


There are 40 games that teach everything from phonograms to vowels/consonants, beginning and ending sounds, matching, compound words etc.  The kids like to play these games and enjoy learning this way.  

In this game, Mugs the dog is fed bones with phonograms on them.  As the child says the sound they feed the bone to Mugs (you can place a box or bowl behind Mugs to catch the bones and prop up the folder.)  


Another game the kids like is feeding words to the "monster".  This is not a file folder game but we often play this during game time.  Connor especially likes this game.


Below is a photo of several of the games.  In the back, is a beginning consonant game where the child places the correct letter on the picture. The game on the left is a vowel and consonant game.  The child drives the cars into the proper parking lot (vowel-consonant- or VIP parking space for "y").  To the right is a game where the child places the proper color word on the color.  In the front is a charades game where the child chooses a card to read then acts it out.

Add caption

In the beginning lessons, the teacher's guide tells you which games to play. Eventually, the kids are to learn to play games on their own (or with you or a sibling) for 30 minutes per day.

Another fun component of PAL is the Phonetic Farm shown here:

The inside of the tri-fold folder 

The backside

As you learn new phonograms, students place stickers in the farm to help them remember rules for what sounds the letters make.  It's really cute yet effective.  The back side (which also shows the cover) has a few jingles to help children remember which words use er, ir and ur, as well as rules for the sounds of y and much more.

Besides poetry, we also use story telling.  In the early lessons, stories are provided in the teacher book. After reading the story, you begin to teach the children about setting, plot, characters etc by asking questions provided in the book.  

The remainder of the time is spent on reading worksheets.  For most lessons there are 2 worksheets.  One usually involves coloring then cutting and pasting words or sentence strips from the bottom of the page to the appropriate box under each picture.  The second sheet is a reading sheet for the kids to practice reading the words they have learned.  This is all in preparation for their first reader.  We are just getting to the first reader (we finished lesson 21 this week) and I am just so excited for my 2 older children using this program to get the reader.  It's a pdf reader that is also a coloring book that you print out for the child.

Jenna with her notebook

As they work through the lessons they build a notebook with 5 parts to it: Poetry, Posters (these are coloring pages that teach certain rules such as punctuation and phonetic rules), Homophone Clothesline (a place to record homophones as they are learned/found), Phonetic Farm Word Book (printable pages that mirror the Phonetic Farm), and Reading Practice worksheets.  We also choose to save all of the work pages and handwriting sheets as well.  We keep everything in sheet protectors.  The kids love their notebooks and even took them on a recent trip to read in the car! (with no prompting from me)

As I've been working on this review, I keep wanting to say that "this is my favorite part" about everything.  I just love all of the different components and how they work together. It is a joy to use PAL and I am thankful to have had this opportunity to review it and use it.  I really feel that I've barely scratched the surface with all that is included with this program.  It is amazing and yet so simple to use.

The final component we received is All About Spelling.  This doesn't really begin until after you reach lesson 20 and so I've only just started this with my first grader.  Connor and Ellie aren't quite ready for it.  I can't give an in depth opinion of it since we are only just beginning but I like what I see.  Other crew members have more advanced students that did use more of the spelling program so if you are interested in more details please read the other reviews.


All About Spelling starts by teaching phonograms to the child.  There are phonogram flash cards, a phonogram CD-ROM so you can hear exactly how each phonogram is to be pronounced, a teacher's manual, and a student pack. The student pack contains a phonogram chart, tokens, phonogram cards, sound cards, key cards, word cards, a progress chart and a completion certificate. Also, magnetized letter tiles that you use on a white board.  This is a step by step multi-sensory program.  I am truly looking forward to digging deeper with All About Spelling.

The Basic Phonogram CD-ROM allows you or your student to click on a phonogram to hear the sound or sounds that it makes.  This is fun for your student and helpful for anyone not familiar with the phonogram sounds.

Before I finish, I want to point out that we have only used part 1 of PAL:Writing and Reading.  The Writing Program has 3 part and the Reading program contains 4 parts as follows:

Stage 1: Foundations (as discussed throughout the review)
Stage 2: Activity Time (Students play the games and being with their readers.)
Stage 3: Discovery (Once the student has mastered the phonetic rules by playing the games they move on to discovery cards (included).  There are 30 pages of cardstock, each containing ten Discovery Words
Stage 4: The Library (The student moves to reading real books.  A book list is provided.)

Part I: Printing and Story Summaries
Part II: Copy Work and Style with All About Spelling
Part III: Composition with Style

I hope it is clear how much I love PAL.  If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I do want to mention that I was already familiar with phonograms as I have taught phonics in the past.  I felt like this was a "no-prep" type of course, but if you have no experience with phonograms you might need to spend a little time familiarizing yourself with them, but I still think minimal prep time is needed.

The price of this is a little high, but worth every penny.  Connor (my son with Down syndrome) has really taken off reading with this.  Jenna (my first grader) is making great progress in her reading.  The pace was a little fast for my 4 year old, but her writing is coming along wonderfully and she is learning so much.  I love having the three of them working together.  We will continue using this for the rest of the year.

Purchase Primary Arts of Language as individual components or get the best deal on complete packages.  Primary Arts of Language: Reading for $69 and Primary Arts of Language: Writing is $89 (includes All About Spelling). Samples of each program are available by scrolling down on either of those 2 links.

Visit the Institute for Excellence in Writing for a variety of Language Arts curriculum for all ages.  I am so happy to have found IEW!


See what others are saying about Primary Arts of Language on The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.


disclaimer: I received Primary Arts of Language in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One week posts

Last week, Hurricane Sandy blew through.  We lost power for 48 hours and our internet for about 12 hours after that.  I spent the first day after just looking the pictures and videos people were posting of the damage in our area.  After that, I just really haven't felt like being online. So, I just haven't blogged at all. I've spent a lot of time reading...and picked up some of my knitting too.   I have a couple of reviews to post in the next few days and then I hope to get back to some of the weekly memes I've been doing.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Math and Reading Games in a Bag

Have you heard of Activity Bags? I was introduced to them several years ago when I purchased Preschool Activities in a Bag.  For this review, I received Math Games in a Bag and Reading Games in a Bag.  All of the Activity Bag books come as e-books in a pdf format. The bags are a wonderful way to add some educational fun to your homeschool.


The activity bag e-book gives you all of the information you need to create multiple games.  A unique feature of these books is that they are designed so you can do a swap with others and not have to make every game yourself.  Only one person needs to purchase the book and download the free Coordinator Handbook (some of the books come with the handbook).  Each game comes with a chart like the one pictured below that tells you how many of each of the supplies you will need for 1, 10, 15 or 20 of each game.  In this way, it is easy to organize a swap for different sized groups.


You gather the supplies you need, print off your masters and put everything in a ziplock bag so your games are ready to go.  We keep our games in a hanging file folder box that I already had set up with school things.  This keeps everything handy and organized.

Each game in the pdf has a chart (above) and labels to print for your bags similar to this:


There are several of these labels to a page so if you are doing a swap you can print less pages.  The label has a description of and directions for the game, the area of learning that is covered, a supply list and a safety warning for young children.  You can print these labels and attach them to your ziploc bag with clear mailing tape.

For ease of shopping and planning for your bags you will find a complete list of games and supplies needed as well. It also tells you where to find it in the e-book, the area of learning that is covered and short description. (Very handy for printing out as you plan your shopping list or if you want a master list of the games.)  Here is a clip of what that looks like:


It is suggested that you place a piece of cardstock in each bag to make it more sturdy.  I suggest using cereal box cardboard (or something similar) which is not only free, but also more sturdy.  Many of the games use sheet protectors over the masters that you print on cardstock.  I laminated some of ours because it is neater and also makes it easy to use wet erase markers.  I can just run the master right under a faucet to clean it off.  (or use dry erase markers as well.)

Math Games in a Bag

The e-book includes instructions for math games with families with elementary school-aged children.  These math games use materials found inside your home and also make learning experiences out of everyday routines, such as ordering from a restaurant menu or putting gas in your car to check the kind of mileage you are getting.  The math games are designed for you to have fun with your child while reinforcing mathematical skills.  Most games are designed for 2 or more players.  -from website
There are 33 math games included in this e-book:


I  printed out several games and we've been playing them during the week in addition to our regular math curriculum.  My 9 year old has been struggling with regrouping.  One of the games is a dice game for 2 players that involves adding and subtracting 2 digit numbers.  She is getting so much practice and because it is a game and not a lesson she is not complaining about it (and actually even asks to play.)  I can't ask for more than that in a game.

This game can be made more or less difficult by using 2 or 3 dice.  
Another favorite is an addition or subtraction bingo that is good for younger children. (but the older ones enjoy that a lot too.)

This learning to tell time game using dice is great fun and gives players practice writing time and doing simple addition.  (You could also use this by putting a time on the clock and having your child tell you what time it says.)

I haven't laminated this and it isn't in a sheet protector for the sake of the picture (glare)

The games cover a wide range of skills including adding, subtracting (simple and more complex), multiplication, shapes, matching, inequalities, fact families, telling time and more.

One of the fact family addition cards.
(Multiplication facts are also included.)

Reading Games in a Bag

This e-book includes 20 reading game instructions for new and beginning readers.  Most use materials that are found in your home.  The Reading games are designed to be fun for both you and your children as you help them gain the skills they need to become better readers.   -from website



This funny game has students choosing parts of sentences to make crazy sentences.  Helps teach beginning, middle and end as well as gives children reading practice.


This is a phonics "board" game.  Roll the dice and move ahead if you know the sound.


Who doesn't love a maze?  Kids of all ages in my house have had fun with these mazes.  There are 6 mazes to choose from.  I put 2 in sheet protectors back to back.  These are difficult enough for older children too.  (These may be a bit too hard for little ones but they still like to draw on these...good fine motor skill practice at any rate.)


These are just a small sample of the fun you can have learning with Activity Bags.

The only drawback to the Activity Bags that we have come across is just the amount of ink it takes to print the games.  I'm going to continue to slowly add games to our collection.  I think one or two new games each week will add variety to our homeschool (and won't overwhelm me as far as printing and assembling goes.)

Many of the games need dry erase markers.  I don't put these in the bags.  I have a bag of dry erase markers that we use for school that I can pull out for the kids when we are using games (so I don't need so many for each bag) and that gives less access to my younger kids who might pull a bag out and draw on the carpet. (Do not ask me how I know this. ;) )

Activity Bags would be a great addition to any homeschool (or for any kid for that matter.)  These would be especially good for Friday Fun School days and especially for those that use workboxes.

Purchase Math Games in a Bag or Reading Games in a Bag for $15.  Fill out this survey to receive a free sampler of Activity Bags. For further information visit the FAQ page.

Other titles by Activity Bags include:

Preschool Activities in a Bag 1 and 2 (Book 3 Coming Soon!)
Science Experiments in a Bag 1, 2 and 3
Travel Activities in a Bag
Daily Activity Journal 1 and 2

See what others are saying about Activity Bags on The Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. The other activity bag sets are also being reviewed.  I highly recommend checking out the Activity Bags and the other reviews.


disclaimer: I received Math Games in a bag and Reading Games in a bag in exchange for an honest review

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