Category Archives: Academics

My Review of Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks

Melissa and Doug Pattern BlocksI’m always looking for way my children can learn and play at the same time. I also really like wooden toys over plastic toys. These Melissa and Doug Pattern Blocks incorporate both elements! This post does contain an affiliate link, but I was not asked to write this review. I decided to share about this product because we enjoy this learning toy a lot!

We’ve been fans of Melissa and Doug toys for a few years now. We have various sets – play food, stamps, play clay tools, etc and now their pattern blocks! This set was a gift to my middle child, but my youngest has actually enjoyed it the most! She isn’t into making her own pictures yet, but enjoys matching the shapes to the included pattern boards.

This toyMelissa and Doug Pattern Blocks allows us to talk about the different shapes beyond square, triangle, and circle. It has more “advanced” shapes like trapezoid and hexagon in the set. The neat thing is that the colors of the shapes have matched up with some of the math curriculum shapes I’ve seen.

If you want something slightly more advanced, there are Pinterest posts with print outs that just have the outlines of the shapes and not the colors! Click here to my Pinterest board where I have pinned some of these printables. I print them on cardstock so that they’re a bit more sturdy for reuse. If you want to get really fancy or have a few children, laminate them! We have this personal laminator and use it ALL THE TIME.

(Affiliate links give us a little bit of money for advertising the product on our website. It helps keeps the website up and running! It’s also at no cost to you the consumer.

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Game Review: Race to the Treasure

Ogres are always a fascination in children’s stories. I think that may have been what attracted me to this game. I love woodland illustrations, fairy tales, and the like. The box to this game was whimsical which caught my eye and caused me to look at it more closely. This also reminded me of my youngest’s favorite tv show, Ben and Holly, so after reading the point of the game, I decided to purchase it. (I was not asked to do the review of this, I did so because we had fun playing it. There are affiliate links in the post, see disclaimer at the end)

Race to the TreasurePeaceable Kingdom Game Review is made by Peaceable Kingdom. It’s a cooperative game printed on all sorts of recyclable and renewable resources. It says ages 5 and up, but my four year old can play it with a little help from 6 year old big sister. The goal  is to collect three keys and make your path to the treasure before the ogre. The game board changes each time because the location of the keys changes with every game. Two dice, one that has letters and one that has numbers come with the game. You roll both to get the coordinates for the placement of the keys and one picnic basket to erase one ogre.

We have played about 5-6 times since I gave it to my children this morning and we have yet to loose to the ogre! There’s no competition which works well for little people who hate loosing. Although my youngest always want to be the one to lay the last piece down….

It’s a sweet little game. This is our first game by Peaceable Kingdom, so I’m intrigued to check out more of their games now. If you’d like to buy your own game, click here to do so.

(I was not paid to review this game. There is an affiliate link at the end to buy the game. Using this link does not make the game cost anymore than if you went to Amazon yourself by typing it in. I do earn a small amount from the affiliate links which helps pay to run this resource site. )

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Multiplication Made Easy Times Tales

Quick recitation of multiplication facts have not come easily to my oldest. Daily drilling was monotonous and boring. He understood the grouping, the concept, could get the answers, but it too a long time for some of the facts. (I was not asked by Times Tales to review this product. This post does contain affiliate links).

Times Tales Review DFW Homeschool

I had seen advertisements for Times Tales for months and months. I admit, I was skeptical. Would some silly story lines really help my child? A friend told me she was looking into it. She has been homeschooling a lot longer than I have so this made me look again at Times Tales.

Times Tales Review

I realized that I could risk $20 on the downloadable version. If it worked, it would save us a lot of frustration! Let me tell you, it was worth the money! I chose to buy the digital version, but for $24.95 you can get it sent to you. If I had to do it again, I would buy the non-digital version, personally.

Right now, via this link, you can save 20% off your purchase of Times Tales. Prices subject to change at any time, so there’s not guarantee it’s still 20% off. Although, seriously, I would happily pay the full price again. I plan on trying it out with my first grader later this fall. I’ll report back later on how effective it was with her.

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Free Virtual Field Trips

Virtual Field Trips for Homeschoolers DFW I wish there was a way to beam us to field trips in other parts of world. The nice weather was awesome while it lasted. This week I think the heat is moving in for summer as usual. Every year I hope that *this* year I won’t let the heat slow us down. Every year I am wrong and loose my resolve as July approaches.

Did you know that you can go on field trips without leaving the comfort of your air conditioned home? These also work well for tiny travel budgets!

Here is a list of some of the field trips I have found that will hopefully quench your travel bug and make you forget the heat!

Discovery Education – There’s an events calendar with upcoming field trips on it! There’s a good selection with new ones being added often.

Smithsonian Permanent Exhibits – tour the museum’s permanent exhibits!

Augmented Reality – not quite the same sort of field trip as the others. They take images from Google Earth and allow you to view it in 3D. Requires downloading of their software to use.

Tour the Little House in the Big Woods – Easier than trekking out west following the Ingalls’ trail.

This is just a VERY tiny example of all of the places your can visit from home. A few others are The White House, The Louvre,  Colonial Williamsburg, Mt Everest, and many, many more! What neat places have you explored from home?


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Summer Work Box

For home school moms, summer just means even MORE time with the children because activities have all but ceased. Even though I adore my kids being home all of the time, I am sad when summer comes because we love our routines. They also seem to like to bug me more often. It’s just something about the summer. During the school year they have their workbooks and computer based lessons to do. When June hits and it’s MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM I’m BORED!!!!!!!!!

So enter, the summer work box.

This is how we kept up some of our studies last summer. Because I have one that struggles with writing and spelling, not doing any hurts him a lot. I made one for my oldest that focuses on writing and spelling.  I made one for my then Kinder.  And when they started whining they were bored and I was trying to work, I told them to get their boxes.Summer work box DFW Homeschool Resource

The red box was my just finished 3rd grade child’s. We haven’t actually done this consistently all summer but it gave us something to do on the days nothing else was going on! I am working on the boxes for this summer…and adding one for my four year old that thinks she is six because she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Homeschool Summer work box

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Before taking some time to think about next school year, let’s think about summer! I CANNOT wait for summer this year. We had some BIG changes at our house. And some of those changes weren’t the best thing for our family, so we are making alterations which is why I can’t wait for summer!

I would like to make a guide to summer for homeschoolers, but I need you help. What is going on this summer? What is your family doing? Are you running a camp that still has openings? Does your playgroup want visitors? Please comment and I’ll add you to my summer document!

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How was I supposed to teach this child to read? As we were working on pre-K materials at home, I realized he wasn’t understanding phonics very well. Major problem. I had struggled with them as well growing up. Despite that issue I miraculously learned to read before I even entered Kindergarten. This was red flag number one, a flag that I hoped would be torn up in another year or two. )This turned into a multi-part series, so stay tuned….)

As I started working with him while homeschooling, his reading picked up, but his spelling didn’t . I wasn’t too worried yet, because I hadn’t been able to spell well either. But what didn’t pick up was his ability to write.

We solved a bit of this spelling issue with going back to kindergarten level phonics…again…

Another red flag was how he formed his letters. Despite being taught to start at the top, he would start his letters in weird places. At the bottom, sides, crossing the t before writing the vertical part. We pressed onward which mostly included me sitting across from him any time we wrote something and saying “Start at the top!!” over and over again.

So we also added in weekly visits with an Occupational Therapist to help with spatial issues and added cursive…

Ages ago I used to work at a school that catered to dyslexic children. I only taught science so I didn’t have special training. I did know that it takes some children until they’re 8-9 years old before reading, writing, and spelling click. So with all of the above on my mind, I waited to see what happened.

And we waited…and reviewed…and changed spelling curriculum 3 times…

Fast forward to last year. He was almost 8 and not much had improved. Handwriting and spacing has improved thanks to OT and cursive! But he still tests really low on some complicated evaluation I will not claim to understand. And his spelling is about on level with my kinder child, but he at  least is willing to try to spell words now! Small victories!!  BUT for being 9 almost 10, I can see middle school coming at us hard a fast and it seriously scared me.

So we decided it was finally time for a Scottish Rite evaluation…

Next part of this mini series will be on our Scottish Rite evaluation! Stay tuned.

Who else has been struggling with a reluctant writer because it’s just SO HARD for them?!?


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Kids Bowl Free All Summer

Bowling for free Register now for summer long fun! For only $5 per child registration fee, your child can bowl up to two games a day! Select bowling alleys all around the country are participating in Kids Bowl Free this summer.
Children ages 15 and under can sign up for the Kids Bowl Free program. If you want to bowl yourself, or have older children, you can purchase a family pass that starts at $21.95 for one extra bowler for the summer. Up to 4 adult bowlers can be added to the family pass.

Just to give you an idea of value, if you bowled every day, this $5 fee is worth over $500! In case you’re looking for a kid free bowling session of your own, most places do require your child to be present. Sorry, no bowling date night on the pass!

Go HERE to find a participating bowling area near you. **Some facilities do charge a fee for shoe rental**

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Picture Studies

This is one of my Charlotte Mason influences from the book I read this summer. Picture studies. We do an eclectic approach to our lessons, so this fits right in. I like the idea of the kids seeing fine works of art. Maybe we will make it Dallas Museum of Art again one day soon. Maybe. And maybe they’ll recognize some of the art. We can always hope!

And no, before you ask, I haven’t dragged them down to the DMA since my oldest was like 3. Why? Between having little ones and having some chronic health issues I haven’t felt up to it, but it is on my radar for this fall. 

Back to Charlotte. I bought this huge art book from Half Price Books for $10 over the summer. And even though it killed me, I tore out pages from it! Shhh I know I know that’s like awful but it’s done.

I cut each page down to about 11×8.5 because my laminating pages are just slightly bigger than that. I chose a few works for each artist, mostly well known ones, and also cut out the picture story which I laminated to the back of the art work. 

A new one is hung up every few weeks. We can discuss the paintings, copy them in our own styles, and discuss the artists.

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