Wednesday, December 28, 2016

DIY Ceramic Tile Christmas Gifts

I didn't blog last week, because I decided to unplug and spend time with my daughter since she was with me this Christmas. These are moments I don't want to miss out on especially when she so young. She asked me to take a break from computer and work-related activities . . . luckily I could and did.

I wanted to share a meaningful "Do It Yourself" (DIY) activity. Alyssa made a ceramic tile gift for her piano teacher and aunt as a Christmas gift this year, but it could definitely be created any time of the year as a gift for someone special for any occasion at any time of the year. 

Let me start with the Photo Ceramic Tile Gift. First, we adjusted the size of the photo to be printed on white copy paper. She chose a picture of her with her piano teacher from recital day. Alyssa used acrylic paint to sponge paint the edges of the tile brown and off white paint to paint the clothespins for the back. Then, she used Modge Podge on the front and back of the photo to apply it to the center of the tile. She carefully worked out any wrinkles. The next step was to spray clear acrylic over the entire project after it dried. Finally, we hot glued the two painted clothespins to the back to create a stand. We meant to cover the back with felt, but it wasn't absolutely necessary.   

The next ceramic tile gift was just a mini sunflower painting my daughter made for her aunt. Her aunt Sammie LOVES sunflowers and the color yellow. After painting it, we sprayed it with clear acrylic and attached the clothespins to the back. 

These gifts can be personalized in any way you desire and they are pretty easy to make. I hope you enjoyed your visit. See you soon! I will link this post up at Virtual Refrigerator. I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!  

Friday, December 16, 2016

Avent Balloon Tree Countdown

I am always on the hunt for fun activities to countdown the days until Christmas. This year I was inspired by two blog ideas to make Alyssa an Advent Balloon Tree Countdown. She absolutely LOVES to play with and pop balloons.

The original idea came from WhiMSy love. Her idea for using a calendar to track events and number the scrolls was very helpful too. She posted a balloon advent calendar. Then, I saw a countdown in the shape of a Christmas tree which I loved. I knew this was the activity for us!

I used green balloons instead of gold or colorful ones. Look What I Made used colorful balloons for her Christmas tree advent countdown. I also decorated the tree with numbered paper ornaments and a strand of garland. I even decorated the pin with a ribboned bell and a few silver jingle bells. I didn't have much on hand otherwise the ribbons would have been red and green.
Decorated Pin
What I Did
First, I researched local events and Christmas activities focusing on FREE activities.
Then, I jotted down the activities we'd most likely participate in this year.
Next, I make a list of those activities on a piece of paper and cut them into strips.
Finally, I rolled them up and placed them inside the balloon before blowing it up. I love the idea of creating scrolled events, but I was running out of time and wanted ours ready when my daughter came home. I tried to stuff a Hershey kiss in it, but my balloons were too small and old so they kept breaking.

You can also research countdown activities and utilize the FREE printables online to make things super easy.

I have to say . . .  this activity was a HUGE hit with my 9-year-old daughter. I wonder if she'll want to do it again next year.

I hope you enjoyed visiting A Learning Journey. Come back soon. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

BookLook Review: The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook

I received a hardcover physical copy of the The Berenstain Bears' Holiday Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult to review.

Book Summary (Taken From the Website) 
Be part of the fun and join Mama, Papa, Brother, Sister, and Honey Bear as they cook up holiday favorites and some unique eats for friends and family with the all-new The Berenstain Bears Holiday Cookbook. Filled with traditional holiday favorites like Frosted Sugar Cookies, Pumpkin Pie, Hot Apple Cider Punch, Cranberry Stuffing, and some unique and fun recipes like Papa Bear’s Paw-Licking Good Chicken Wings, this kid-friendly cookbook will help Bear Country families, and families and friends everywhere, have the most wonderful year of eating ever! 
What We Thought
The 96-page non-fiction children's cookbook was written by Mike Berenstain (son of Jan and Stan Berenstain). This kid-friendly cookbook was published by Zondervan and will be suitable for children ages 4-8. I couldn't wait to surprise my daughter (Age 9) with this book, because she loves to bake and cook in the kitchen. My daughter and I enjoy cooking and baking together especially during the holidays.

My daughter eagerly flipped through all the pages. She found so many appealing recipes to try. The book was organized into holiday and seasonal sections, but many recipes can be used year round.

Holiday and Seasonal Categories
  • Valentine's Day
  • Christmas
  • 4th of July
  • Fall
  • Thanksgiving
  • Easter 

Each section begins with referenced scripture verses and a Bear family story. I love the classic Berenstain Bears stories and fondly remember them from my childhood. However, these stories help children make connections to the Bible stories and verses. For example, the verse for the Christmas section is: "May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those He is pleased with on Earth!" - Luke 2:14. In the related story Mama Bear encourages the cubs to set aside a plate of cookies for Mizz McGrizz, because she has a cold and was unable to finish her Christmas baking. Sister Bear also decides to bring her a Christmas card. Papa Bear explains to the cubs that "God loves a cheerful giver." These are wonderful messages to pass on to your children.

The Table of Contents lists each recipe under seasonal or holiday categories with page ranges. The book utilizes real, full-color photographs of the recipes. The photograph is located on the right-side and the recipe is on the left-side. There are approximately 40 simple recipes. Each section consists of around 7-8 recipes including desserts, appetizers, beverages, snacks, main entrees, and sides. Each recipe includes a list of bulleted ingredients and supplies needed and numbered step-by-step directions to follow. The recipes practice a variety of cooking and baking skills for all levels such as measuring, mixing, blending, stirring, beating, rolling dough, cutting, and more. Several recipes require the use of a microwave and oven.

There is also a helpful Table of Kitchen Measurements at the back of the book. It contained both standard and metric conversions. Picture icons were utilized to indicate tablespoons, pinches, cups, quarts, and so forth. The recipes do have canned ingredients listed if that is of relevance to you. Individuals who tend to make whole food, clean eating, or all natural recipes may need to substitute with real food items.

How We Used the Book
We chose recipes based on the ingredients and images. My daughter wants to make the Valentine's Day Pizza in February which was in the shape of a heart. The crust is a "made from scratch" recipe. She also can't wait to make the Pink Party Popcorn. We both like cranberries, white chocolate, and semisweet chocolate chips. The recipes look absolutely delicious.

My daughter made Lovey-Dovey Banana Bread. The bread was moist and tasted really good. Next time we'll probably leave out the strawberries. We made the banana bread in my Pampered Chef mini loaf pan so the cooking time was reduced.

The Tricks and Treat Trail Mix recipe was easy for my daughter to make independently. It made approximately 5-6 servings, but it lasted much longer for the two of us. It was stored in the container below with a fitted lid.
Tricks and Treats Trail Mix
We plan on making the Cozy Hot Cocoa on Christmas Eve so that we can enjoy it as we watch Polar Express. This sounds delicious and even adds a touch of peppermint with candy canes. 

I highly recommend this book for all families with young children wanting to learn how to bake or cook. It is a great addition to our holiday cookbook collection. I am always looking for kid-friendly cookbooks to encourage my daughter to explore her hobbies and interests. In my opinion, the Berenstain Bear Holiday Cookbook is a fun and outstanding book for children ages 3-9 with adult supervision of course. The book would make a perfect Christmas gift for beginner cooks or bakers. This Colorful Christmas Poke Cake will be a great Christmas treat your child could make during the holidays.  

Store Prices
Zondervan $12.99
Amazon $9.38
Christianbook $7.79

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice.

I received a complimentary, free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers Review Program in exchange for an honest, unbiased review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 
I review for BookLook Bloggers

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tween Craft Day: Holiday Stamping

I love seasonal crafts! Last week at our local library's Tween Craft Day, Alyssa and the other children visited a variety of craft stations. Alyssa completed a Stamped Clay project that she adored and definitely plans on repeating once I find all of my scrapbook supplies. This would make an excellent gift for a family member or close friend. 

A variety of holiday stamps were provided. She chose a penguin stamp. First, the air dry clay was rolled flat. Then, she stamped the penguin in the clay. Ornaments, magnets, or trinkets could be created. She decide to make a trinket or plaque. The next step was to use watercolor paints to add a touch of color. Finally, she went over the entire project with Modge Podge. This is such an easy and fun craft for children! Why didn't I think of that! Not to mention . . . the end results are absolutely adorable.  

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey. I will link this post up at Virtual Refrigerator Blog Hop hosted at Homeschool Coffee Break.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Books for the Holidays Linky: Our Top Ten Christmas Books

I have a large Christmas book collection. I've been collecting books for many, many years. These are the top ten Christmas books I plan on reading with my daughter this year. Many of these book selections are part of our Advent Book Tree Countdown to Christmas activity.

1.) Unwrapping the Greatest Gift written by Ann Voskamp
2.) The Jesse Tree written by Geraldine McCaughrean 
3.) Humphrey's First Christmas written by Carol Heyer 
4.) Santa's Favorite Story written by Hisako Aoki
5.) Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle written by Jason F. Wright
6.) The Prayer Chain written by Kimberley Williams Shaw
7.) Mortimer's Christmas Manger written by Karma Wilson
8.) The Sparkle Box written by Jill Hardie
9.) The King's Christmas List written by Eldon Johnson
10.) A Special Place for Santa written by Jeanne Pieper

Please check out the Linky below to read about other Books for the Holidays suggestions from the Homeschool Review Crew members.
Books for the Holidays

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be abundantly blessed with happiness, love, and kindness. Enjoy spending quality time with your loved ones and cherish every moment.

I am not making the Thanksgiving feast this year, but I am bringing a couple things one of which are my deviled eggs. I can't wait to eat some roasted turkey and grandma's delicious stuffing. I've been waiting for this all year. :)

Remember as your prepare the feast or get ready for the day to give thanks to God and have a heart of gratitude. Here's a scripture reference I will be thinking about today.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  - Psalm 107:8-9

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Alyssa!

My baby girl is growing up so quickly. Yesterday she turned 9 years old. Happy Birthday Alyssa! The years are flying by. She is an exceptional young lady and I can't wait to see what God has planned for her future.

She was at her father's this weekend so I spent two hours with her in town. I took her out to eat at Fazoli's, because she doesn't get to eat there often. She decided to order an adult meal. We went window shopping and hung out after the meal. She bought a coloring book to use during Thanksgiving break. It was great seeing her for a couple hours! Her smile brightened up my evening! I brought her one of her favorite dessert treats (mini macaroons), a huge birthday balloon, and a beautiful red rose.
Tortellini Alfredo with Meatballs
Saying Goodbye
First Birthday
Look at that it's the Same BIG Smile :)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Amazon Rainforest Brochure Project

Alyssa made her first brochure project. We recently finished a rainforest-themed unit so she decided to create a brochure about the rainforest and the animals living in the rainforest. First, she completed a planning sheet while researching information. Then, she revised and edited her work. My daughter also found a mini map online to include in her project. She's learned so much about the rainforest this year! The project also inspired her to create several other brochures.

Thank you for visiting A Learning Journey!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Language Smarts™ Level E from The Critical Thinking Co.™

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

We recently had the opportunity to review a newly released product from The Critical Thinking Co.™ called Language Smarts™ Level E. My daughter and I received a physical copy of this HUGE workbook. As soon as my daughter opened the package in the car, she wanted to work through the pages. I was hoping to add more critical thinking activities to our day and this book has the bonus of being a full Language Arts curriculum. It is one of 4 books in a product series titled, Language Smarts. Levels B through E are available to purchase.  
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

Language Smarts™ Level E is written by Noreen Conte who has over 30 years teaching experience with children in Grades 1-5. A variety of concepts were addressed including but not limited to making predictions, following directions, making inferences, summaries, spelling rules such "i before e except after c, good readers, nonfiction, clauses, types of writing, parts of speech, and so much more. 

This GIGANTIC 392-page consumable paperback workbook is jam-packed with engaging lesson material. However, based on the company website, it has a reproducible license which means you can reproduce each page for use within one home or one classroom. Critical and analytical thinking skills are woven into the lessons. An answer key is found at the back of the book starting on page 364. The solutions are listed under the page number which is in bold print. Very few images or illustrations are found throughout the book which keeps the focus on the lesson material. The book is geared towards children in 4th grade, but will be beneficial to advanced 2nd or 3rd graders with some Grammar and Writing experiences and background knowledge. Skills and concepts which students are expected to know in 4th grade are covered. The book is also suitable for children in 5th grade, because it addresses concepts taught in that grade as well. 

Short yet informative mini-lessons are boxed and outlined in the color pink at the top of the page. These boxed sections are to be read first. The clear and concise explanations are easy-to-understand. Additionally, the modeled examples reinforce learning. Tables or charts are provided for specific topics. The directions are highlighted in yellow. The bright color attracts the eye encouraging and reminding students to read and follow the instructions. I was happy with this feature, because the highlighting feature definitely draws the eye and your attention to the directions. Not to mention, the font size and type were readable and easy on the eyes. 

This complete workbook teaches Reading, Writing, Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, and Vocabulary effectively. Furthermore, analytical and critical thinking skills are addressed within each lesson. The comprehensive workbook also covers 3 main types of Writing including Narrative, Informational, and Opinion. The five steps of the writing process are taught for each type of writing style. A sample of the Editor in Chief and Writing Detective lessons are built-in and scattered throughout the workbook. These are two full-sized products available separately in their online store. These books address grammar, spelling, punctuation, writing, and reading skills as well. 
Editor in Chief
Writing Detective

The workbook is organized into several main topics as seen below. Each topic is further broken down into more specific concepts or skills. For example, Alyssa will review end punctuation and quotation marks when learning about Punctuation. Then, she'll learn about commas, colons, and semi-colons. My daughter will differentiate between types of sentences, learn about rambling sentences, fix run-on sentences, identify clauses, and recognize sentence fragments when the Sentence unit is covered. There is so much content that is actually covered in depth. All eight of the parts of speech are addressed and further broken down to simplify the concept even more. The standards listed below will give you a better idea of a few concepts and skills emphasized. You can also view the Table of Contents sample pages for more detailed scope and sequence information. 

Topics Addressed
  • Syllables
  • Word Parts
  • Word Relationships
  • Spelling
  • Editor in Chief
  • Writing Detective
  • Parts of Speech 
  • Sentences
  • Punctuation
  • Using Words Correctly
  • Reading and Writing
  • Types of Writing and Writing Process
  • Reference Materials (online or print dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia)
  • And More

How We Used Language Smarts Level E
Language Smarts™ Level E is intended to be a full Language Arts curriculum. However, it can easily be used as a supplement to any core Language Arts curriculum. We used it as a supplement to her Reading, Grammar, and Writing curricula. It also served as her core Critical Thinking curriculum. 

I used this workbook with Alyssa (age 8) who works at a 3rd-5th grade level. She has been exposed to basic and advanced Grammar, Reading, Spelling, and Writing concepts for years so her background knowledge is above average. I was confident that the topics would be age-appropriate and meet her needs after glancing at the Table of Contents. I knew that some of the material would be a review and other topics would be unfamiliar. I was hoping the content would be somewhat challenging yet enjoyable which was the case for several concepts. 
Challenging Activity: Accented Syllables
Hardest Activity Yet Still Smiling :)

My daughter completed 2-4 pages a day. We originally intended on starting at the beginning of the book working in order. She worked through the pages 3-5 times per week completing anywhere from 6-20 pages total in a week. I gave her approximately 15-45 minutes to complete the assigned pages. I used blue post-it notes to indicate which pages were assigned for the day. I used a pink post-it note for easier access to the answer key.

I didn't want her to get bored learning about the same topic over several days so we started to jump around to different topics in the book. We focused on reviewing previously learned concepts or tied the pages into her current studies. We also skipped around to get a feel for the depth and topic coverage which was an excellent idea, because it gave me an idea about the content coverage of the entire book and provided even more lesson variety. A conglomeration of activities were offered for each topic such as fill-in-the-blank, hidden riddles, jumbles or scrambles, word searches, crossword puzzles, sentence completion and rewrites, matching, and multiple choice. 
Jumbled Prefixes and Riddle

Each subtopic lesson was about 1-4 pages long with Reading Comprehension and Writing Detective activities being the longest and requiring the most time to complete. Plenty of writing space was provided for written responses. I included a photo of the Reading Comprehension passage below so you can see the level.
Reading Comprehension Passage

The book thoroughly covered the following topics that we studied: Syllabication, prefixes, suffixes, roots, synonyms, and antonyms. Analogies were a fairly new concept for Alyssa, but the material was presented in a simple manner with the use of helpful word banks or choice boxes. She also learned about Anagrams for the first time. The concept was addressed by giving a silly sentence that didn't make sense. Two words were incorrect. She had to first identify the incorrect words and then rearrange the letters to form a new word. As she completed the book pages, I identified a few concepts she struggled with such as accented syllables and compound syllabication with prefixes and suffixes added on.

Alyssa usually completed the work independently. For the first two lessons, I read aloud the lesson boxes to model expectations. Then, she read the lesson information and viewed the examples on her own. I offered help when she needed to clarify any misunderstandings. I did not give her any answers, I facilitated the learning process by asking questions and enabling her figure it out on her own. Then, I checked her work and we discussed any errors. If a brand new topic was scheduled, then I did read aloud the lesson information or teaching points. Several example problems were also completed together. 

One of Alyssa's favorite lessons was about Palindromes. She learned for the first time what the formal term was for a word that reads the same forward and backward. This lesson was also her favorite, because it included a Crossword Puzzle. Word searches and cross word puzzles are a big hit with my little girl! Furthermore, her second favorite activity was the Tagalong Word Search when learning about Antonyms. The first word was completed as an example. The opposite of "easy" was difficult. The word "difficult" was circled in red in the word search puzzle. The last letter of that word was the first letter of the next word which is the antonym for "loose." The antonym and next word was "tight." I've never seen a word search set up in this manner and we both wished more  tagalong puzzles were included in the book. If the child doesn't read the highlighted directions, then they would most likely get several wrong. 
Antonym Tag Along Word Search
What We Liked
  • Highlighted Directions
  • Colorful, Non-Distracting Workbook Pages
  • Comprehensiveness and Coverage
  • NO Lesson Preparation or Planning
  • Variety of Activities
  • Language Arts Subjects Integrated in the Book
  • Writing Process Gradually Taught with Graphic Organizers 
  • Inclusion of Reading Comprehension Passages and Thought-Provoking Questions
  • Challenging Age-Appropriate Content
  • Consistent Concept Repetition and Plenty of Practice Opportunities
  • Tag Along Word Searches, Crossword Puzzles, and  Palindromes
Suffix Word Search
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Separate Parent Answer Key from Student's Book
  2. Word Bank or Hints for Scrambled Words
  3. Limit the Number of Questions on Each Page 
I recommend Language Smarts™ Level E for families who implement a traditional or workbook approach in their homeschool. This full color workbook would be suitable for advanced second and third graders or as intended for 4th grade students. Fifth graders can use the book to get a head start too. I was pleased and impressed with the content coverage and skill depth in the book. If your child likes completing workbook pages, then I would definitely look into this product. Visual learners may appreciate the charts, graphs, tables, and puzzles.

I believe this book is helping Alyssa improve her reading, writing, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and critical thinking skills. We will continue using Language Smarts Level E at a slower pace completing fewer pages each day. She will work on only 1-3 per day starting next week. I want my daughter to work at her own individualized pace. If 2 pages are completed per day, then she'll complete the book in a school year, but if needed we'll use it longer. I will choose topics related to Alyssa's studies or give her the choice as to which pages to complete. 

The cost of this high-quality workbook is $42.99. Visit the online store for more information. You can also view the 3-page Table of Contents and sample pages on the website during your visit. The colorful workbook is available in two formats as a physical book copy or in eBook format. 

Note: Prices subject to change without notice. 

If you have younger preschool children, then you may want to look into The Critical Thinking Co.™ software download options for their Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program. These are downloadable products available for Windows. Keep in mind only ONE child can use the program at a time. Checkout The Importance of Preschool AcademicsReading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program for more information. 

Social Media

The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed various products from The Critical Thinking Co.™. Visit the link to learn more about each product we reviewed.
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
Crew Disclaimer