Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Forbrain: A Sound for Life LTD Review

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD
If growing up in this world was ever simple, it certainly isn't anymore.  From stranger danger and violence to health problems and learning difficulties, our children face so many mountains every day and rarely is there a clear cut solution without a wounding side effect.  Today's review is over something that makes me so thankful to be a member of the crew and glad to have such a huge educational resource through my relationship with it.  Forbrain from A Sound for Life LTD is a headset that uses your voice to enhance your brain.  Using Bone Conduction, it transmits the sound of your voice faster and clearer.  Then a dynamic filter enhances specific frequencies of speech and constantly surprises the brain.  It is has been used for things such as auditory processing, sensory integration, speech issues, and short-term memory help.  When you are in the business of educating young minds, it is likely that you have at least one student that could benefit in one or more of these areas.

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

In recent months, my brother and sister-in-law had been investigating ADD and various methods for addressing related issues for my nephew.  When this product came up for review, I immediately thought of them because all of the skills Forbrain is advertised to help with can be traced back to ADD issues.  They had recently started a new regiment of dietary changes and various exercises designed to help balance certain things in the brain.  Trying Forbrain fell right in step with the new things they were trying.  The one disadvantage of that is that some of the progress they've experienced is hard to trace back to a single change they've made, like the use of Forbrain, but they did make some interesting discoveries anyway.

The main user was to be a 7 year old suffers from focus and attention issues.  They found it to be easy for him to use by himself on a daily basis.  He would read books aloud to himself for 15-20 minutes at a time.  They also had him count aloud alternating from a soft to loud voice for each number.  They have seen some improvements in some of his problem areas, but again it is difficult to say what has made the most impact.  More time with the product may produce more specific results.  One frustration is the size isn't adjustable so it feels large on a child's head.  That may be necessary for it to work properly, but it takes some getting used to.  Still, the kids enjoy using it and making silly sounds! 

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

Because little sisters always want to do what their big brothers are doing, another user was a 3 year old.  At her age, her language and clarity is still developing so Forbrain made a very clear difference immediately even though she only used it a few times.  Each time she used it she would talk more slowly and deliberately, correcting herself when she would hear a word spoken incorrectly. It quickly helped her to say her ‘L’ sounds more correctly.  

Based on this limited experience, Forbrain is a high-quality resource certainly for anyone with language or speaking difficulties.  Those difficulties certainly impact other issues so it makes sense that this tool could have farther reaching effects with long-term use.  When learning challenges come with our children, one of the most life-giving things is just knowing about different resources that might could help.  This gives us hope for growth and improvement!  

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Our experience was limited to our family's needs and challenges.  Follow this link to read how other people used this product and what types of results they had.

Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Happy 7th Birthday J!

At every stage your children go through, there is a moment or a series of moments when you know that this is when it matters.  Rocking that baby that just wanted Mommy.  Teaching that toddler to pray.  There's a lot of stuff that matters, but then there are those things that you know you won't get back.  The moments that shape their hearts towards God and their expectations of other relationships.  J turned 7 over the weekend and we celebrated until we couldn't anymore!  As we should.  His birth was a beautiful accomplishment for me and his 7 years of life have been such a blessing.  As he's asleep in his bed under a brand new comforter in a relatively new bunk bed and I roll around the concept that he's 7, I'm struck with another moment.  He's on his way to 10 and whatever strength of character I hope to shine through in adolescence needs to be formed immediately.  I know it isn't absolute, but it feels almost like cement is being poured into his heart and I need to shape it before it dries.  

He came home tonight and finished a new Lego set he had gotten for his birthday all by himself.  That's a new thing for him because usually he either requires help or just really wants a partner for relationship sake.  Tonight though he made it very clear he wanted to prove to himself and his family that he could finish the whole thing by himself in one day!  I was so proud of him.  I've known for a while that there are certain things that he needs as a male that I either can't understand or won't always recognize readily on my own.  This is a great example.  Proving himself is important to both genders of course, but I think it can be especially important for boys to do so in areas having nothing to do with their mothers.  His focus of energy and motivation was so neat to watch, while a little overwhelming how much this little person has developed into a boy looking ahead to adolescence.  I love it and it terrifies me all at the same time.

I'm deeply dreading the reality of his heart needing to belong to another, but I'm so thankful it has been mine for another year.  Happy 7th Birthday J!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack from The Pencil Grip, Inc. - A Review

The Pencil Grip, Inc.
I haven't been reviewing products for all that long (about to close out year 2), but I love getting to see a product develop and flourish over time.  The Pencil Grip, Inc. is back with more colors and a bigger collection in the form of the Thin Stix Creativity Pack.  Every time we review for The Pencil Grip, Inc. it's like we get a creativity shot in the arm.  The kids start doing one thing, but then end up with more ideas as time goes along.  This review is no different. Miss Z started with a picture of her dad putting her in a headlock with very colorful furniture and then suddenly we were all making Pilgrim hats and Squanto headbands!

This new creativity set we received includes 24 Thin Stix - 12 Classic colors, 6 Neon colors and 6 Metalix colors.  This collection of colors is a well-rounded assortment that facilitates just about anything you can think of.  And there is something about having a lot of color options that is exciting!  When this set came in the mail, I never once had to offer it up as a suggestion for something the kids could/should do.  It was a go-to activity all on its own for a couple of weeks.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack

The fantastic quality of this product that I first fell in love with is the tempera paint effect without a mess.  This makes parents happy! Of course my kids are a fan because they are allowed to run wild with it, so to speak.  With the introduction of the Thin Stix - that feel in the hand more like a marker or highlighter - adults are more comfortable using them.  One of my favorite creative activities besides writing is painting.  As a stress reliever, as a creativity enhancer, painting for process is very freeing to me.  I know I'm not skilled at actually creating life forms so it is 100% play.  And as we all know, play is far more important than we give it credit for - even in adults!  By now maybe you already own a set of Kwik Stix, but I'm thinking these would be a easy, cheap gift for your favorite college student, crafty adult, or stressed out friend in need of a stress-reliever!

Did I mention how much of a mess is NOT made when we use these?  One of the kids used a brown clipboard to hold their paper and when they were finished there was paint all over it.  The said child went and got a wet rag to clean it up.  With almost no scrubbing, the clipboard looked good as new!  This is mess-free painting at it's best! 

Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
Thin Stix Creativity Pack

Keep Up With Social Media Links for The Pencil Grip:

Twitter: @thepencilgrip

The Thin Stix Creativity Pack, like all of their other Kwik Stix products, is so versatile that the possibilities of uses are endless.  Check out all the other projects these were used on through the link below:

Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

This Beautiful and Wounding Life of Motherhood

As I'm navigating this child life for the third time,  there is so much beautiful and wounding at the same time.  On a daily basis you're hit with a reality wave that reminds you how this is not how you planned it exactly and yet it is everything!  My sister-in-law put it right in her newest song.

If you like it and would like to support more music coming from Hannah, go vote for her at the link below:

Vote for I've Got It Good by Hannah Elise

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Magic Stories: A Reading Program Review

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
One time someone asked me if being a member of the Review Crew and my kids starting various educational programs, but not necessarily finishing them was detrimental to their learning.  Honestly, I had never thought about it that way, but I've after having thought about it I'm sure the answer is no.  For one thing, sometimes we do either finish a program in the review period or continue using it afterwards.  Still, even in the cases where we might not, the educational exposure is more opportunities to learn and exercise mentally.  Our latest review is a good example of this.  The Magic Stories from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series was completely unfamiliar to me and something we started on in the middle of other curriculum already in progress.  And yet, for the first time ever, I walked by J as he was reading The Magic Hole and he was laughing.  He loves reading, don't get me wrong, but I don't think I've ever caught him laughing at something he's read unless it was Calvin & Hobbes! Needless to say, new venues for learning are always welcome here.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

The latest venue, The Magic Stories is a digital product intended for 2nd and 3rd graders that includes 6 stories approximately 20 pages long, corresponding vocabulary cards and exercises for each story, and pre and post sight word assessment worksheets for each story.  The student is expected to take a pre-assessment, read the story, work through the exercises and then take the post-assessment.  Hopefully, the student will have improved.  The vocabulary in each story increases in difficulty so reading them in order is recommended, but the assessment worksheets are great for determining your child's level of readiness for the individual stories.  The exercises and worksheets are designed to be used with the stories, of course, but the vocabulary cards can be used long after you've finished with The Magic Stories program for review and refreshing.

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

While my avid reader loves to consume just about anything, he is definitely ready to work on comprehension.  The Exercises included with each story are great for digging into content.  Each story includes The Maze, Finish the Sentence, Imagine, and Finish the Story. My favorite is the Maze.  It presents true or false statements that, if answered correctly, will lead you successfully to the finish.  I thought it was a really fun take on the maze concept!  J loves reading, but slowing down to comprehend isn't always his favorite thing to do.  Having different kinds of exercises available covering the same content really does make it more palatable for him. 

There are also some helpful free resources on the website like instructions, the assessment worksheets I already mentioned, Running Record Sheets that assess reading fluency and a running record sheet for a classroom or group of students.  If this sounds like something your reader could use, my readers will receive 25% off by using the coupon code raisingreaders at checkout.   For the amount of content and exercises you receive, $16.95 is a great price! Getting 25% off makes it even better.

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The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
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Monday, October 23, 2017

October Reset: Friendship

I put off writing this October Reset post because it made me nervous.  Friendship is a sensitive and difficult subject for me.  I am not really good at friendship, yet I crave it like water.  I am motivated most by relationship, but I'm terrified of others coming face-to-face with my flaws and insane quirks.  So, a friendship reset is something I've needed to do for years, but it seems so deeply rutted that I'm overwhelmed at where to start. 

First things first I guess.  I love deep meaningful relationships where loyalty and authenticity are mandatory.  As a kid and through adolescence I usually felt deeper (or at least more loyal) about my friendships than the friends did.  I was always a bit of a know-it-all which meant not really a barrel of laughs, but got a lot of people asking me for advice.  And truth be told, who doesn't like being asked for their 'expert' advice, right?  But when the crisis was over, most would move on to their regular friends.  Before you think I'm throwing a pity party or something, understand that I have been blessed with some amazing people in my life where I've spent some amazing weekends of fun with. 

I seem to remember a crazy weekend with some beautiful Bradford girls that involved way too many accidents and emergencies, but made for some great laughs and stories.  Whenever the subject of no friends would come up, my mom would always advise us to look for others who needed a friend.  I remember a couple of sweet Tidmore girls recently back from living in Honduras for a few years that became fast friends at first because we all didn't really know anyone.  Teenage years into my twenties brought some really great people close to home that were the building blocks to so many adventures - Melissa, Annette, Darcy, Olivia, Brandi, Andrea, Jessica, Afton, Stephanie and I could just keep going.  

So, yes I was blessed with friends, but friendship is complicated and then adulthood starts happening.  People get real jobs, get married, children take over and before you know it, an introverted, easily-overwhelmed girl who was always scared to really put herself out there first anyway, finds herself drifting farther and farther away from true friendships.  Why? Because life for one thing.  If you don't see each other on a weekly basis, then staying in touch requires more.  If your timelines in life (if you marry, age of your kids, values, etc.) don't align, it requires even more commitment.  And then there is me:  All of that plus my life and kids taking up a lot of the limited free space in my brain.  I go to bed longing to be closer to people - to be invited or included in things, but figuring a random text message at 11:00 probably won't be welcome or bring me that much closer to them.

The snowball of drifting away from friendships is sometimes impossible to avoid.  When you have a baby (and then two and then three), your life has to change.  For better and worse, you have a new job in guiding that little soul.  Your priorities have to shift.  And that's a lot of what has happened to me.  I take my job seriously as a mom and before I knew it friends were changing.  And then I want to do friendship perfectly or effortlessly - both of which never happens.  So I tend to give up before I try because it can't be either.  Thus, arms length or whenever its easy, which can be really unfulfilling. 

So, a friendship reset for me involves starting over from this new normal.  This new normal has 3 children, awkward introductions, 40 lbs of baby weight to lose, and a mountain of things to be grateful for.  My desire for friendship to be perfect or easy always required me to be the perfect friend.  If I was thinner, if I was funnier, if I was more stylish, if I was a million other things, then maybe friendship would be easier.  The first reset truth is that friendship requires work and maintenance, things I've resisted in so many areas of my life over the years.   The second truth is that I'm not perfect and neither is anyone else that I might be friends with.  I have to be okay with both of those things.

This month has really turned a corner in my heart with recovery from the really rough first half of this year and my little racecar's first 6 months.  I'm feeling more hopeful and joyful than I have in several months.  Ladies, motherhood makes so many other things in life hard.  Now may not be the right season for seeking friendship beyond what is already available to you.  That's a reality that we must accept sometimes.  I've been a lousy friend on multiple occasions - and knew it - but just never seem to have enough energy or brain power to fix it.  Now my season of life, especially with the racecar being our last planned pregnancy, is shifting.  I'm not exactly declaring I'll be everyone's best friend in 30 days or less, but I am committing to the pursuit of real, deeper friendship.  You might not be in the right place for this kind of reset right now, but tuck it away for another day when the time is right.  Isolation and arms length is just not how we were designed to live.  

If you find yourself in the presence of an awkward exchange or a nervous invitation from me or anyone else, try to have mercy on us.  Even if we aren't your forever friend, you might be just the practice we're needing to not give up!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading Eggs: An Online Reading Program Review

Reading Eggs

With learning to read being one of the big milestones for our kids to hit, we are always looking for new and creative ways to encourage them during that process.  We were given the chance to review Reading Eggs with my almost 7 and 4 year old this past month and half and were absolutely blown away.  Reading Eggs is an enormous program full of a zillion activities that teach everything from phonics to comprehension with very clever games and reward systems.  In this one program there is so much content that this review will not begin to give you a full picture.  Regardless of what I share with you today, you should take advantage of their  Free Trial by November 30th because it  gives you free access for 4 weeks!  
Reading Eggs
What do eggs have to do with reading, anyway?  Before I explored the site, the name always made me think of chickens - certainly not reading!  The eggs are actually a currency all over the website to access different activities, rewards and levels.  This is what makes it such a hit with the kids, I think. It's a great combination of a typical video game format and a reading program.  

The Reading Eggs website contains 3 reading levels: Junior Reading Eggs (for ages 2-4), Reading Eggs (for ages 3-7) and Reading Eggspress (for ages 7-13).  There is a Bonus Material Section that includes Activity Sheets, a Parents User Guide, Homeschool Curriculum Guides for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade, and access to The Eggsperts, an animated  series about solving problems with letters and sounds. There is also a Mathseeds area in a just as clever video game format that is all about math.  For this review, we're focusing on the reading portion but the math is a fantastic bonus with your subscription!

Before beginning any program, each child has the option of taking a placement test where they can begin where most appropriate rather than at the beginning of the program.  If your child has some reading skills, this is a wise option.  My 4 year old was just learning about word formation so beginning at the start of Reading Eggs worked perfectly, but also spent some useful time in the Junior section where things were a little easier.  My almost 7 year old is a great reader and the test started him near the end of the Reading Eggs for some comprehension work.  He also tried out the Reading Eggspress, where he really liked the games, but sometimes grew tired of the higher level work.

If you are familiar with my family and homeschooling style, you know that I prefer hands-on, screen-free curriculum whenever possible.  Send us outside and it's a perfect day!  However, if I didn't know before, the past two years have taught me that life is full of less than ideal circumstances.  This program does a solid job of teaching children to read while getting them excited about their schoolwork!  Whenever I need something they can work on independently this is one of everyone's top pick.  For our household, this program was used as a supplement to their other reading activities.  If you are in the market for a complete reading program, Reading Eggs offers a Parent User Guide that lays out the different ways you could use the various elements.  A new option they offer is a complete homeschool curriculum guide (as seen in the picture below) that uses Reading Eggs, Mathseeds, activity sheets and all of its online books for the entire program of work for the school year.

The incremental levels just seem to be unending and the games continue to entertain long after the newness wears off.  This program exceeded our expectations and has provided loads of educational fun for both of my school age children.  Don't forget to try it out yourself for free before November 30th!  
Reading Eggs*

Keep up with Reading Eggs on Social Media:

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•   Twitter: @readingeggs
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Read what other households thought of Reading Eggs below:

Reading Eggs
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Monday, October 16, 2017

October Reset: Parenthood

When I feel out of my normal control, I (too often) default to panic.  In my marriage reset post, I mentioned this panic too.  Children, especially as they multiply, can hit your overload button just by breathing sometimes.  Since Zoey was about 1, I've been trying to fully recover from the default panic mode my body had been set on.  Before we moved to the new house, I had finally started feeling healthy again, but then change ran amok.  Of all the roles I play in my life, being a mom is perhaps the one I feel the fiercest.  It's hard.  I'm easily overwhelmed.  I'm an introverted homeschooler which makes me a little crazy for alone time.  But I am absolutely enthralled with  what they are (miracles that combine their dad's DNA and mine in a beautiful way) and deeply committed to the responsibility of raising them.  So, despite the panic roller coaster they have kept me on, I keep coming back for more!

Still, panic is bad for your health long-term.  Trust me, I know.  So, my parenthood reset involves breathing first.  Before a reaction, before a demand, before a scolding, I'm learning to breathe.  My stressful state shouldn't be blamed or perpetuated (long-term) by their lives.  They are precious and the parts that aren't fall under my domain.  I'm the parent so it's my job to work on those.  Panic, stress and reaction is my responsibility to eliminate, not theirs.  The times when I struggle to enjoy my children have more to do with my state of mind than their behavior.  Parenthood reset puts my mental health under my control and responsibility.  A long day is still a long day, but I need to be cautious about blaming my children for what is largely my doing.  When I stay up too late or don't take time to pray and set my mind for the day - that's not their fault.  It is very easy for me to react to the behavior of now - like loud talking or children squabbles - as though they are the worst.  However, when I'm rested, emotionally filled and peaceful, managing those things are as simple as breathing.   The difference is me, not them.

It always sounds silly to hear someone say, "You're the parent, remember?" As though we could forget.  But somewhere along the way we do forget that being the parent means we are in control of so much whether we like it or not.  They do what we do.  They react like we react.  They resist what we resist.  Join the parenthood reset in taking control of what is and should be yours to direct.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CTC Math: An Online Curriculum Review

For learning sake, it really is unfortunate that our education system is too often on a very rigid assembly line with mastery expectations lining up just so.  I don't know what kind of kids they are used to but all the ones I've ever encountered don't seem to learn at the same kind of pace or often even in the same way.  So when you find tools and resources that highlight a student-based learning pace, especially in math, it is something to talk about! CTCMath can help catch up students that have fallen behind, give some extra practice or be utilized as a full math curriculum, whatever you need it for.   Last year we reviewed CTCMath with only one child using it and this year we got the chance to review it again with two students this time on the Family Membership.  The only major downside  we found was not having enough computers when both kids wanted to do their work at the same time!

In case you are unfamiliar with CTCMath,(which in that case you should take advantage of their free trial) it is an online math curriculum for ages K-12 that comes complete with video lessons, questions, diagnostics (tests), summaries and worksheets (only for some of the higher grade work).  As the teacher, I can login to my account and assign tasks to each student.  I can set deadlines for each task and an assigned order of completion.  If there aren't any tasks or parameters set, students can still access any lesson at any time. Students have their own login, but I can see their progress from my login at any time.  For each grade level, you can download a checklist of all the lessons if you prefer to keep track on paper.

How We Used It:

While miss Z is just 4, she is determined to do school like her brother so we've been exploring Kindergarten slowly with her.  She'll watch a video and then try the questions.  She would usually ask for help, just to make sure she's doing it right.  A lot of times it gave her brother a chance to help her, which is always a good thing for everyone.  Because she is moving at a really slow pace, it is helpful that she can always do lessons and questions as many times as we choose.

Since this isn't J's primary math curriculum, he used this to reinforce areas he was weak in.  Being able to jump around is a huge benefit to using it this way.  It is so nice to see his struggles improve simply from a little extra practice in a different format.  Our experience has been mainly with the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades, but they seem to use a wide variety of pictures and examples in their content. 


Are you interested, but not sure if you're ready to commit to a membership?  CTCMath offers a free trial where you can try out the first lesson of any topic.  If you decide to buy a membership from now until November 15th, 2017, you will receive 60% off AND 6 months for free. It's definitely a good time to sign up!


Keep Up with CTCMath on Social Media:

CTCMath Online Math Tutoring {Reviews}
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Monday, October 9, 2017

October Reset: Marriage

I've never been shy about how different Mr. Butler and I are.  Introvert, extrovert.  Logic, feelings.  Red, blue.  So from the very start things can get complicated.  The past almost 2 years have been full of life changes and now coming down from having the little racecar, we continue to hit different stages of our relationship.  In line with the October Reset, I have needed to refocus my energies in our marriage.  Between physical healing, sleep deprivation and emotional turmoil in general, it has been easy,  and sometimes even necessary, to make anything else a priority.   A new baby takes the cake for a while, whether it's #1 or #3, and then everyone is deprived of the usual.  Other kids are clamoring for attention, chores pile up, and then heaven help us if there is an emergency or big holiday event.  The freight train just doesn't stop for a few months.

Praise the Lord, I think we figured out the baby's sleep issue and he just turned 6 months old so our freight train seems to be slowing down a bit.  In the midst of children happenings, it seems easy to love sacrificially - unconditionally - because they are children.  Maybe it is a maternal instinct thing, but when it comes to spouses, it seems different somehow.  They are adults so you expect different things from them (of course), but suddenly I found myself refusing to demonstrate the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated.  Conditions, demands, judgments - Instead of a relationship held together with an agape kind of love.  I was finding it really hard to love for love sake - to love anyway.  When life gets stuck in emergency mode or autopilot, it is easy to just react rather than being intentional with your choices.

Marriage Reset for me involves returning to the original order and intention of things.  I've always wanted to be a loving wife that makes life better, but in the chaos of the past couple of years I started reacting from a place of panic.  This month, though, I'm trying to eliminate the panic and replace it with love.  Once love is the starting point, Mr. Butler gets first dibs on my attention rather than last.  After all, he was there first and has weathered so much with me.  Everyone benefits when mom and dad are happy.  How does your marriage need to be reset?

In honor of #marriagereset I asked him to take a picture with me.  As usual, we couldn't really get our act together at the same time so imagine this is photo booth strip.  Here's to love!