Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THAT wasn’t on the lesson plan!

I don’t think I’ve ever given the impression that we have a perfect little homeschool.  I hope I’ve never made anyone feel that we have our act all together.  BUT…Just in case you’ve ever gotten that impression, let me set your mind at ease:

We. Have. Crazy. Days.

Take this one for example.  The day started out great!  We got started according to plan, gathered in the living room to sing some fun songs together, got Max & Jensyn settled in to some fun activities, and did Alex’s history and science lessons.  Sounds good, right?

Alex’s history lesson was about George Washington and his men crossing the icy Delaware River in the darkness of Christmas night.  His science lesson/dramatic play involved filling a pan with water and ice.  You then use a toy boat and a plastic figure to re-enact the George Washington’s adventure.

This was great fun!  All the kids sat on stools to give it a try!  I snapped a few pictures, watched the children re-enact the story, and THEN…the phone rang.

It was a lady from the apple orchard returning my call about a field trip we are planning for our co-op group.  Silly me, I decided to go around the corner so that I could converse without loud squeals in the background.  You know, let the children continue their re-enacting while I talked on the phone…OUT. OF. SIGHT.

You know this isn’t going to end well, right? 

So…exactly 4 minutes later, I returned to the kitchen just in time to see a great big WOOSH of water.  They’d been using the (almost silent) reverse osmosis faucet on our kitchen sink to fill the “Delaware River” to the top.  In doing so, they’d puddled a great deal of water on the counter, which had been dripping over the edge.  As I rounded the corner, a child tipped the “river” and caused a great big flood.

I’m not even sure how much water they’d spilled before I came into the kitchen.  All I know is that water was pouring down the counters.  It was puddling in the silverware drawer.  It was draining from every crack on the dishwasher door.  It was oozing out from under the kitchen cabinets.

(This is a picture of the aftermath.  There was no time to take pictures during the flood!)

After soaking up all the puddles with bath towels, we dried out the silverware drawer and the cabinet under the sink.  Water was still oozing out from under the cabinets and dishwasher.  I ended up unscrewing the dishwasher mounts, pulling it out, and using the shop vac to clean underneath.  I lifted the pipe covers inside the cabinet and set up a fan to blow under the cabinets to help dry it out underneath.  Keith, who I called at work, suggested using the shop vac to suck out any water from under the cabinets.  I spent well over an hour trying to dry it out, and I occasionally went back throughout the afternoon to run the shop vac a few more times.

That night, the dishwasher wouldn’t run.  Too much water had gotten into the panel inside of the door.  Keith had to take apart the dishwasher door to dry out everything inside, and THANKFULLY, the dishwasher worked after that.

Our family will FOREVER remember George Washington’s icy and dangerous trip across the Delaware River. 

*I* will FOREVER remember that it is a TERRIBLE idea to leave my children with a ‘river’ of water while taking a phone call!

YOU can walk away from this post knowing that, if you have crazy days in your homeschool, you are SO. NOT. ALONE!

Hopefully you got a good laugh for the day…I can laugh now that the mess is cleaned up and all is well! Smile

Monday, August 25, 2014

Entertaining The Littles

We started back to school on August 4th.  We haven’t done school every day, but we’re slowly easing back into our routine.  I opted to start only Alex, saving Max’s MFW K to begin after Labor Day.

But Max and Jensyn need to keep busy while I’m working with Alex.  They’re not interested in staying in a bedroom with busy boxes this year.  If I don’t find ways to keep their minds and hands busy, then Max is jumping off of chairs, interrupting us with silly questions, and pestering us all.  Jensyn is sitting my lap coloring on my teacher’s guide with a purple glue stick.  (True story, sadly.)

Max’s favorite so far has been to spend up to 30 minutes playing with our pattern blocks.  We have the Melissa and Doug pattern block set, and we have a few pattern block workbooks as well.  The one pictured below is my favorite for a 5 year old to get started working with shapes and spatial relations.  It’s hard enough to make Max think, yet easy enough for him to do independently.

Here’s the snowman he made last week.  He had to stop and think hard in order to fill in some of these spots, but in the end, he did a great job.  He was SUPER proud of his end results!


busy thinking about how to complete the Melissa & Doug pattern blocks puzzles


I realized recently that Jensyn LOVES tracing letters, and she loves using our ‘dot magnets’.  I printed a princess preschool pack for her and she’s stayed busy with markers, magnets, and tracing.  She loves to use the magnets to make hearts on the cookie sheet.


Max is also working on Rod & Staff preschool workbook pages. 
Here, he’s doing a color by number page. 
He took this very seriously, and he sat and worked on it for almost 45 minutes!

Once we begin MFW K in September, both Max & Jensyn will have new things to keep them busy, but we’ve enjoyed these simple ways to keep their minds and hands busy while we get back into the swing of things around here!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: UberSmart Software

Sometimes a review really catches you by surprise.  You think it’s going to be a ‘simple, little program’, and you find out that it is actually so much more.  That’s what we’ve discovered with UberSmart Software’s UberSmart Math Facts program!

Although I was very excited about this review (seriously!), I thought we’d be ‘doing flashcards’ on the computer screen.  That’s all.  I thought it would be helpful, but I wasn’t sure that UberSmart Math Facts would be anything amazing.  Let me just put this out there: I. WAS. WRONG.

Though UberSmart Math Facts seems so simple, and it’s offered for a very reasonable price, it’s not such a ‘simple, little math program’ after all.  It’s packed full of terrific math learning, practicing, testing, and assessing.

UberSmart Math Facts was created by homeschool dad, David Kocur, in response to his wife’s request for a flashcard program for their children.  This downloadable software program teaches basic math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to children of all ages.  It uses a flashcard and rote memorization learning method, which has proven so effective over the years.  The main goal of UberSmart Math Facts is to encourage children (or users of any age, really) to memorize basic facts so they will be able to answer with automaticity.

All users may begin with an assessment test to determine the level at which they are currently able to work.  It begins with counting dots, moves on to sequencing, number relationships, and odd/even numbers.  From there, it goes on to test basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.   (There is an “I don’t know” option to keep your child from feeling frustrated if the problems become too difficult.)

Once the user has completed this assessment test, the program offers a written (and printable) assessment of the user’s math skills to show you where your children should be working in the UberSmart Math Facts program.  I was very impressed with this report!

The levels begin with simple ‘dot cards’ that look somewhat similar to dominoes.  These are suitable for young learners, and they are a wonderful way to learn counting and addition skills in a simple way.  (Our 6 and 5 year old boys are beyond this, and our 3 year old daughter is not quite ready for the dots, so we have not spent much time in this portion of the program.)

If your child is ready for more, he or she may begin to work on basic addition facts.  You may choose a level, such as focusing only on “+1” facts or “+2” facts.  Flash cards appear with a blank in which to type the answer.  Once you’ve typed an answer, you hit the enter key and the next fact appears.  At the end of the fact practice (around 15 facts), you’ll see the results.  These are worded in an encouraging way, and the results show whether the user has mastered this level or needs to continue practicing.

UberSmart Math Facts works like typical flashcards, but because it is a software program, it has the ability to do so much more!  For example:

  • If you choose, the program will automatically filter out facts that your child has mastered. 
  • It will let you know when it’s time to move from practicing a set of facts to testing on that set of facts. 
  • You can adjust time limits and track response times and test results with graphs. 
  • It allows you to print a certificate when your child has completed all facts.

UberSmart Math Facts can be used by all members of your family.  In a passworded parent account, you may set up a username for each family member who will be using the software program.  In this way, multiple children can utilize the program at the same time.  This is an amazing benefit for homeschool families, but it’s also terrific for public or private school families who would like their children to have a little extra practice with basic math facts.

UberSmart Math Facts is not a high-tech, game-like program with fancy bells and whistles.  It has a very basic appearance, as you’ve likely noted throughout this post.   It IS, however, a very effective method of learning and retaining basic math facts.  This program is full of features to help you assess your child’s math abilities and encourage math success.  I very much appreciate UberSmart Math Facts, and I believe we will use this program with all three of our children over the next decade!

For now, we will DEFINITELY continue to use this program with Alex, our 6 year old.  With Alex, the fancy ‘bells and whistles’ can be a distraction.  He does well when he is able to focus on the task at hand without feeling rushed.  I feel that UberSmart Math Facts is a great fit for him!  It is absolutely perfect for his needs right now, and I am incredibly thankful that we had the opportunity to review UberSmart Math Facts!

My only complaint about UberSmart Math Facts is that we noticed a few typos scattered throughout the program.  These were minor issues like spelling errors (your instead of you’re) and pop-up messages that told me I mastered an addition section even though I’d just completed a multiplication section.  I only noticed this twice, and reviewers were using the pre-release version of Ubersmart 4.0, so it is possible that these errors have now been corrected.  The typos do NOT affect the program’s ability to assess or teach your child.

UberSmart Math is available for the low price of $24.95, but for a limited time, you can enter “v4 Early Bird” in the discount code box on the purchase page for a 30% discount!  This discount is only valid through September 30, 2014.

System Requirements: UberSmart Math is designed for Windows 7, 9, XP, and Vista.

To read more reviews on UberSmart, please CLICK HERE or on the image below.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A New Creation

One of our favorite memories of My Father’s World Kindergarten with Alex is the caterpillars we raised, watching their transformation into butterflies.  I think we all enjoyed every day of that amazing process!  It’s such a wonderful lesson in how God can miraculously transform not only a caterpillar, but also us!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 84

Max will be starting MFW K after Labor Day, but we accidentally got a jump start on the butterfly project this time around.  During the month of July, we had fun bringing in Queen Anne’s Lace flowers, placing them in jars of colored water, and watching the flowers change color.

A few days into our color changing, I began to notice small black bits all over the kitchen counter.  Looking more closely at the flowers, we found a teeny-tiny caterpillar living on the underside of one of the flowers!  I do mean tiny; I’d never seen a caterpillar so small!

We decided to move the flower to a different cup and place it in our butterfly garden.  I wasn’t sure if we could raise him all the way to a butterfly, but we did!  The process can only be described as a miracle – a nearly microscopic squirmy thing transforming into a gorgeous butterfly?  Amazing!


After a bit of research (thanks, Google and MFW K Facebook group!), we were able to figure out that this was a black swallowtail.  We’d originally guessed a monarch, but as the caterpillar grew, we knew that couldn’t be true. 

We had him for close to 2 weeks before he finally stopped eating excessive amounts of Queen Anne’s Lace, settled in at the top of the butterfly garden, and began his transformation.

getting ready for his chrysalis


11 days later…

We knew it would emerge soon.  The chrysalis was becoming very transparent, and we could see the butterflies wings right through it.  We left the butterfly garden on the table while we were eating breakfast, and suddenly Alex called out, “Whoa!  Oh, WOW!”


Alex got to watch the butterfly emerge, and we all got to see it just moments after it emerged!

It was sooooo ugly; for one brief moment, I thought maybe we’d been wrong, and somehow we’d raised some sort of creepy insect.  It looked like some kind of ugly wasp!  (I didn’t grab the camera instantly – it’s already looking a little less wasp-like by the time I snapped these pictures about 2 minutes after he emerged.)

I just love the AWE of my children when they experience the emerging butterfly!





starting to unfold a bit…


about an hour later…

His colors are just beautiful, aren’t they? 

the next morning…

You’ll notice that the bottom of one of his wings is damaged slightly.  Because of this, we opted to release our butterfly quickly because he needed room to fly freely without getting tangled in the edges of the butterfly garden.


After waiting for a rainstorm to pass, we headed out to the driveway.  Alex unzipped the butterfly garden, and then we waited.  It took a few minutes for our butterfly to realize he was free.


Once the butterfly flew out, he was gone in a HURRY!  We had hoped to let it land in our hands, but it just took off!  In each of these pictures, you can see a tiny speck of butterfly in the sky, but he flew HIGH and FAST!  I’m so glad we let him out of the little cage; he was definitely ready to FLY!


Here’s what was left of the chrysalis…


Since we did this now, I think we will skip the butterfly habitat when we reach that unit.  This one was a free, unexpected gift that just happened into our kitchen while we enjoyed the summer wildflowers.  We’re grateful for these little glimpses into God’s amazing miracles!

*This post contains affiliate links to the butterfly garden on Amazon.  Thank you for supporting Our Little Monkeys!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Happy Kids Songs

Over the summer, we’ve had the chance to review three MP3 downloadable song sets from Happy Kids Songs.  Each of the sets pictured below contains five songs designed to teach your children character, social, and emotional skills through music.

Friends & Sharing (Set 1)
Happiness & Attitude (Set 5)
Manners & Character (Set 6)

These cheery, upbeat songs encourage good manners, positive attitudes, and traits such as sharing, giving complements, and honesty.   Since music is an amazing way to teach young children, these songs offer you a great opportunity to help your little learners commit these character lessons to their memory!

In our home, there are some songs we sing to help us remember when to clean, remind us to have a positive attitude, or encourage us to tell the truth, etc.  Once you and your children have learned the Happy Kids Songs, you’ll be able to start singing a song as a reminder of the character trait or attitude that needs to be encouraged in your home or classroom.  Isn’t reminding your children through music a much better option than nagging or scolding?  We think so!

You and your children will enjoy songs such as:

  • Everybody Wants To Find A Friend (reaching out to others)
  • H-o-n-e-s-t-y (the value of honesty)
  • Shake It Out And Dance (from I can’t to I can)

The song “Everybody Wants To Find A Friend” has particularly good lyrics for one of our children, who tends to be quiet and sit back rather than joining in with others to play.  The lyrics encourage children to take that courageous step of asking someone to play:

Everybody wants to find a friend.
Just say hello. Let “another body” know
That you want to play with them again.

Along with our the song downloads, we also received a Happy Kids Songs workbook containing lesson plans,  a song lyric page and an activity sheet for each of the 40 songs available from Happy Kids Song.  This book is completely reproducible, making it suitable for classroom or co-op use. 


The lyric pages have cheery black and white pictures to accompany the words.  The activity pages vary in difficulty,  with some being simple matching activities or coloring sheets and others containing word searches or crossword puzzles.  When these activities are too challenging for your littlest learners, the song lyric pages will give them a great coloring page to work on while older learners complete the activity page. 


The song lyric sheets and activity pages are also available for free if you subscribe to the newsletter.  Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll receive an email link where you can download a PDF file of the lyric sheets and activity pages for each album.  (These free files do not contain all of the lesson plans/activities found in the workbook.)

Happy Kids Songs is designed for children ages 4 – 8, but both younger and slightly older children could also benefit from these songs and accompanying pages.  We personally prefer a more Biblical approach to character education, but Happy Kids Songs would make a nice character education supplement for a co-op, daycare, preschool, or kindergarten class to focus on one song each week.

Song samples are available on the Happy Kids Songs website.  This is a great way to check out the songs to see which songs or albums might be suitable for your kiddos!

Each of the eight downloadable MP3 albums is available on iTunes or Amazon for $4.95.  There is also an option to buy individual songs for $0.99 each.  CLICK HERE to view all available albums!  (The workbook, which is a great addition, is available for $12.56.)

To read more Crew Reviews about Happy Kids Songs, CLICK HERE or on the image below.

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Scotch Laminator On Sale!!

This wonderful laminator is on sale TODAY for $17.99!  It’s often in the $30 range, so this is a great price!!!

I absolutely love this laminator!  I’ve had mine for over 3 years, and it’s still working just as well as the day I got it.  It’s perfect for homeschooling, crafting, and household use.

Additionally, my favorite refill pouches are also on sale today!  You can get 100 full page lamination sheets for under $10!!

Yes, I’ve gone overboard with the exclamation points, but honestly, these two items are a REALLY good deal!  Grab it while you can!

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  Thanks for your support of Our Little Monkeys.)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Wizzy Gizmo

Have you ever wished to be so immersed in a book that you actually felt as if you were really there?  Our most recent review gave us the opportunity to do just that!

Our family has enjoyed listening to an audio drama from Wizzy Gizmo called “Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?”.   This creative drama is based on the concept of a special machine, created in the laboratory of a man known around town as ‘Wizzy Gizmo’, that can place you inside of a book and make you a part of the story.

A young boy named Eli is new to the town of Sunnyville.  As he meets new friends, the children introduce him to Wizzy Gizmo and take Eli to visit Wizzy’s shop.  Wizzy asks the children to try out his newest invention, Gizmovision.  This special invention takes the children and Wizzy directly into the book of Genesis, where they fully experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the days of creation.

The drama itself is 36 minutes, but the Wizzy Gizmo CD also contains many musical tracks, which extend the running time of the CD by 24 minutes.  The drama is short enough to hold the attention of my 3 year old, yet fun enough to captivate my almost-5 yr old and 6 year old.

I first listened to the CD in the car with Jensyn, my 3 year old, when she and I were out together one day.  Only minutes into the drama, Jensyn had a big grin on her face.  She was truly enjoying the CD!  She commented, “I wish I could see the picture, mama!”  I agree that a DVD would be a lot of fun!

The next time we listened was on a 4 hour drive to a campground.  This was my boys’ first experience with the CD, and they enjoyed it just as much as Jensyn.  I heard an awful lot of giggles coming from the kids as they listened to the drama!

The Wizzy Gizmo drama is a wonderful blend of both Biblical truths and silliness.  That might be hard to explain without listening for yourself, but my children are both learning and laughing while they enjoy this CD!

The Biblical truths shared in this drama are so good for kids to hear!  I think it helped my children to gain a better understanding of what creation is all about.  The children in the drama ask important questions that help listeners get a good grasp of the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of creation. 

What’s even better is that, though I know that my littles will not pick up all of the theological and Biblical knowledge in one listening, they are excited to listen to Wizzy Gizmo again and again!  With each repeated listening, they will pick up on more details, and I love that!

Throughout the audio drama, the narrator shares verses directly from the Bible.  In this way, the entire Biblical account of creation is shared straight from God’s Word.  The CD has a very strong Biblical base, yet shares the information through a fun and imaginative story that captivates young listeners.

The quirky characters found in the drama, Qwacky and Pepe, keep things light-hearted and fun.  My kids loved the silly jokes and funny voices of these two characters, and they had lots of giggles as they listened to the CD.  They especially love the “Mango Oh How I Love You!” song, and we’ve sung and danced to this many times. 

At the end of the story, there’s a “Giz Quiz” that asks questions about the story.  It’s a wonderful review of the drama you’ve just heard, and it helps to solidify the Biblical facts of the creation story.

After this, the next 7 tracks are songs.  The first song, “Third Heaven”, gives a great account of the days of creation.  The song is appropriate for children, yet still appealing to adults.  It’s a beautiful, well-performed song.  The remainder of the tracks are instrumental, and many, possibly all, of these tracks are the background music found throughout the audio drama.  It’s beautiful music, and very well done!

We felt that “Wizzy Gizmo: Who Created Everything?” was a very professionally made CD, and everyone in our family enjoyed this audio drama.  It’s great for passing time on a long car ride, and I think it will soon work its way into our boys’ rotation of bedtime CDs.  I love knowing that they are learning Biblical truths as they drift off to sleep at night!

Would you like to find out more?  To hear Wizzy Gizmo for yourself, you can listen to samples of the CD by scrolling down at THIS LINK.

This wholesome, Biblical, family drama will provide entertainment for all ages.  ”Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?” is recommended for ages 4 – 12.  My 3 year old and I are both obviously outside of that suggested age range, but we both enjoyed it, as well, so I’d definitely consider it appropriate for the whole family!

Wizzy Gizmo “Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?” is available for $14.99.  By following the instructions on the website, you can save up to 10% by ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ on social media sites.

Wizzy Gizmo also offers two Old Testament books: Who Created Everything? and In His Image, as well as a New Testament fact card set called “Fast Track Bible Pack”.   Along with our CD, we also received one Fast Track card for the book of Hebrews, and this looks like a GREAT Bible resource for elementary age and older.  You can view a sample card for the book of Matthew on the Wizzy Gizmo website.

If you’d care to read more reviews of the Wizzy Gizmo audio drama or other products available from Wizzy Gizmo, please click here or on the image below.

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