Monday, July 29, 2019

Summer Chronicles: The Joy of Mud

One of the reasons I wanted to move out closer to the country was to give my kids this.  They played and played and played some more out in the backyard under the shade of a tree.  It was glorious and life-giving.  I pray that we all find experiences that bring excitement and joy back to our bones like this little mud puddle did for my kiddos in the dead of Summer.

Friday, July 19, 2019

USA Activity Bundle Pack: A Crafty Classroom Review

The last two years we have studied American History in our homeschool and taken a tour of the 50 states through our primary curriculum. As we're finishing up, I'm getting a little sad,  just because it's so comfortable and familiar! Today's review is a perfect compliment to any US History study or a fun supplement when you need a change of pace.  Crafty Classroom, a super fun company we have reviewed before here, has shared with us their USA Activity Bundle Pack that includes three separate downloadable packs - USA State Birds Realistic Art Cards, USA State By State Activity Notebook, and USA State by State 50 Mazes.  

What We Received:

The USA Activity Bundle Pack includes three digital files that are intended to be printed out for use.  With great colorful graphics, each file is suited for printing and binding as a workbook.  Printing pages as needed is an easy option too.

The USA State Birds Realistic Art Cards is 30 pages of birds in color and black/white, designed to be colored by the student with blank lines for notes or handwriting practice using their names.  For each bird, the page is designed to cut out portions for collectible cards or to be used in some other craft.  If printed on card stock, a collection of cards could be kept for quite a while.  As some of the states share a state bird, each bird includes the appropriate states on the page.

USA State By State Activity Notebook includes a page for each state that contains the state flag, bird, and flower with spaces to label each, outline of the state for rivers, mountains, lakes and the capital to be written in, map of all 50 states for purpose of highlighting the selected state, and two lines for facts and notes to be written.  As you see below, the entire page is black and white for the purpose of coloring everything.

Also included in the Activity Notebook are two games, USA Bingo and Roll Across America that are great for learning/practicing identifying the state shapes and state capitals.

Finally, the USA State by State 50 Mazes contains a maze in the shape of all 50 states!  The lines are somewhat small and close together so it was enough of a challenge for my kids to keep them interested.

What We Thought:
Since we have already been talking about states, this fit right in and everyone welcomed the added activities.  My kids are currently 6 and 8 and well suited for all of these activities.  I do believe that older students, except for the mazes (not sure when kids get 'too old' for that), would be able to utilize these activities as well.  Colored pencil bird art cards could be a great art project.  The activity notebook could easily be used as a quiz, testing out their memory of capitals and state facts.  And of course, the games can be a fun way to learn your capitals and states!

Crafty Classroom on Social Media:


As you can see, The Crafty Classroom offers a lot of digital bundles and the Crew tried out quite a few.  If you would like to see what some of these other packs look like, click on the picture below to read the rest of the Crew reviews.
Hands-on, Low-prep and Ready to Go Learning - Tots to 3rd Grade {Crafty Classroom Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, July 15, 2019

Have Your Children Lost Their Magic?

In between the fears and the overwhelming exhaustion, having a child is magical.  Just watching them sleep or listening to them babble is just one of the best things in life.  Fast forward to the 7th fit over dinner or the 10th time you've found clean clothes in the laundry hamper, and their ain't nothing magical about that!  My kids are currently 8 1/2, 6 and 2 which means everyone knows how to walk and talk.  There's no new baby and no more pregnancies.  We've been through the first grandchild on both sides and birthday parties and vacations.  With three kids, things can get hectic and messy and a little mind-numbing, if I'm honest.  All that magic of the beginnings is nowhere to be found some days.  The jaded "Just you wait!" attitude starts to emerge when you encounter a brand new mom that reveals a bit of jealousy mixed with a need for validation that it isn't all your fault.

Those precious babes that brought so much joy and hope to our little naive lives are suddenly the source of our resentment, loss of identity and some mix of extra pounds, wrinkles and gray hair.  It's a harsh reality that few avoid.  Still, there are sweet, sweet moments where that sweet magic glimmers in the hallway strong and pure as ever.  It is those moments that we live for, isn't it?

I'm writing this to propose a theory.  While it seems that, like that newborn smell, the magic eventually fades into few and far between sightings, I am beginning to believe that the magic is something we parents cultivate or quench.  When a child is brand new - especially the first to do things - we are watching so carefully their every move and treating every word as a new revelation!  When the three of them are bickering in the backseat, my head is hurting from the slew of things to be done in the next 36 hours and it starts to rain, seeing the magic of my children may be a tall order.  Life gets hectic and hard. Our precious kids don't lose their magic as much as we just forget how magical they really are.

Like the joy of being newly married fades and must be worked for in order to get back, the fulfillment of children and family requires intentional living.  Here are some ideas for getting that magic back!

1) Own Your Attitude.  Exhaustion. Hormones. Stress. Certain seasons of life really bring out the worst in us.  It's important to recognize how jaded we've become to our precious blessings.  As easy as it can be to blame our kids for everything, we are the person in charge and set the tone for their life.  Until we accept that responsibility, we're going to miss the magic.

2) Slow Down.  Have you sat down and read to your kids with no real schedule or deadline floating in the back of your mind?  What about going outside or playing a game? Kids have such a joy for life when they think you WANT to do life with them.

3) Get To Know Them Again.  It's easy to forget that our children are in a constant state of growth.  That means who they are becoming might not be who we knew them to be a few months ago.  There is so much magic in the things they are thinking and considering, even just in their questions. 

Every time you catch yourself staying grumpy with your children, it's time to do something about it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Learning Dynamics: A Reading Program Review

Teaching your a student to read seems fun and exciting when it just involves recognizing letters and their sounds.  Once it's time to start forming words, things might start to feel uncomfortable.  With some kids (like my oldest), reading comes naturally and it isn't a difficult process.  Others experience a mountain of trouble and the process takes a very long time.  Learning Dynamics has developed a program that is intended to not only introduce letters and their sounds, but also bridge the gap into strong reading.   Today we are looking at the Learning Dynamics Reading Program and reviewing its multi-sensory method for beginning readers.

What Is It?

Learning Dynamics Reading Program is a simple approach that has students reading books in 4 weeks when they spend 15 minutes a day, 3 times a week. The company is so confident in their program that they offer a 30-day money back guarantee! The Learning Dynamics approach introduces singular concepts (letter sounds, vowels, blends, etc.) and then keeps their attention with multiple avenues of reinforcement.  The reading books provided are a fun reward as students can add them to their personal library after a skill is mastered. The entirety of this program is housed in a small, sturdy box that definitely helps keep things organized.  Included in this reading program is:

  • Teaching Manual
  • Online Training Videos
  • Over 50 Books
  • Flashcards
  • Activities & Workbooks
  • Music CD with letter and concept songs

Who Is It For?

Any level of student - from no letter knowledge to struggling readers - can utilize elements in this program.  Through song, the alphabet and letter sounds are reinforced as often as desired.  While my 2 year old isn't ready for reading, listening to the songs and being introduced to the letters is a great way to prepare him.  On the other end, a 7 or 8 year old struggling reader could benefit from the simplicity and reward through books method to obtain the skills needed to read successfully.

How It Works:

For the brand new reader, you begin with looking at a letter card and practicing the sound.  Each letter has a corresponding song on the CD that you use in conjunction with the pictures in the teacher's manual and a story using words that begin with that letter.  For those who can write, the student book has coloring and letter practice for each letter.  As you work through the lessons, there are points of review and blending instructions that prepare you for incorporating the books in the process.  Toward the last half of the Lesson Manual there is a Lesson Manual 2 that concentrates on blends and the various rules they encounter.

How We Used It:

My 2 year old is the only one left to learn to read, but he is definitely not ready to dive in heavy.  My big kids have no reading problems but immediately wanted to read all of the books.  So, we listened to the CD and played with the letter cards a lot and the big kids would read some of the books to him (and a lot to themselves!).  When they were learning to read, the big kids just read through a couple pages of a learn to read book a day.  While this was effective, I know having the music element and blending instructions built in along the way would have energized them far better.  While we have a big enough library of books at home, earning a book of their own is a great prize at that age!

Is it Worth It?

I firmly believe that a healthy child can learn to read without spending a dime.  Through the public library and things they already have access to in their house, learning is possible.  For those parents nervous about teaching a child to read, as many are, The Learning Dynamic Reading Program provides all that you need from supplies to instruction - including some great video demonstrations on their website.  It is complete, but simple.  As my 2 year old grows, I hope that his learning to read will be as organic as his brother with the help of Learning Dynamics.

If this program is something that would fill your curriculum needs right now, be sure to use the coupon code WRITEBALANCE for 10% off!

Learning Dynamics on Social Media:


Since we were only using certain parts of this program due to my son's age, maybe you would like to read about other family's experiences.  Click below to check out the rest of the reviews of this program.
Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Perfectionist in You

While you might not consider yourself a perfectionist, I would argue that we all can be perfectionistic about certain things very important to us.  I know what you are thinking.  "Just because I have high standards doesn't make me a perfectionist."  I'm not so sure though.

In my experience, the perfectionist in you and me comes out when we care a whole lot about something, often where others don't as much.  The rightness or wrongness - if that is even appropriate to determine - is situational at best.  There are some things to consider when determining if these high standards are wise or worth the fallout.

-God Trumps All.  If our obedience to God is on the line, then perfectionism is not what we are talking about.  There are more gentler and wiser ways of upholding God's standards than others, but obeying Him should always be a top priority.

-People Matter More Than Things.  Our relationships with other people should matter more than our things.  If our high standards cause us to mistreat those around us or ignore their needs, then we should reconsider.  When we enforce our standards - which often involves correcting others actions or ideas. - are we considering how it makes them feel?  Do you recognize and acknowledge their effort and intention before dismissing it as unacceptable or not good enough?  One of the reasons perfectionist people can feel so isolated is because their constant correction or demand on a matter causes others to feel discouraged and uncomfortable and therefore not want to come around as much.

-Time is Irreplaceable.  Having high standards often requires us to spend more time on something than others would.  Is it worth it? Are we forgoing really meaningful activities because of these standards?  Am I taking advantage of this season of life appropriately?  Young and single - are you traveling any?  Married without kids - are you taking risks like going back to school or traveling?  Have young kids - are you playing and adventuring with them?  Are you spending time with your living family members in light of time being so short?

-More Trouble Than It's Worth.  Is the time, energy and stress (on you AND others) worth this ideal outcome?  If we are talking surgery or bridge construction, I would say ABSOLUTELY!  There are circumstances that demand perfectionism because without it there is grand failure.  There are times in our lives when excellence and standards pay off a great dividend.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are matters of much less significance that perfectionism may only please a notion inside of yourself.  If you are the only one it is effecting, then no problems may arise short of a time management issue.

I believe we all have perfectionist tendencies sometimes, whether we realize it or not.  And ultimately that's the real issue - our awareness level.  Knowing that our standards are higher than others on a specific matter should help us be gentler with those around us.  Praising their efforts, educating them on your reasons for desiring a higher standard and asking for their patience can do wonders for our relationships.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Where Do I Belong?

The moment you feel it may not be obvious to those around you.  It isn't always a big incident with pointing and laughing.  Sometimes realizing you don't belong is very quiet and still.  The conversation you're having stalls because it is clear this other person can't understand where you're coming from at all.  Or there are times in life where we've invested so heavily in a relationship only to find that it is one-sided.  No matter the circumstance, feeling as though you don't belong is heavy burden to bear.

There are seasons and reasons for not belonging - and many of them are for good.  There is so much sin and dysfunction in the world that only leads to suffering.  It is God's will and design that we don't belong there.  Both as the church and in our individual lives, Christians are called to be holy and set apart.  That will reveal separation and difference sometimes.  Dave Ramsey, a financial author, says that in order to live like no one else we must live like no one else.  This principle applies to a lot of things and results in different ways of living.   While a different way of life (like frugality, homeschooling, spiritually principled living, etc.) might be something you deem worth it, that may not eliminate feelings of isolation or rejection.

Of course, there are other times when rejection is not really about you, but you suffer anyway.  Rejection.  Being left out. Or just somebody's after thought, if you even get that far.  Realizing you expect or desire things out of a relationship that you may never get can be a vicious wound. 

And maybe you are the type of person that says, "Who needs them anyway!" and moves on.   When you can let it go and simply focus on something else, it is healthy and freeing.  But there are some of you, like me, who are sensitive.  That means you feel things deep and sometimes longer that those around you think you should.  Wanting to belong somewhere is a very deep need that we all have.  It is so deep that it can lead us to compromise so much because the pain of separation and rejection is so great.

Can we all work on being a little better to get along with? I know I can. Do relationships work better when we allow other people to feel honored too?  Absolutely.  Is sacrificing wisdom or the truth in order to gain a group to belong to worth it?  It's not. But still, sometimes pain is so loud and so angry that we'll take anything to make it stop.

Just as Jesus bore the weight of rejection, there are going to be times of hurt and isolation in our lives. We can't avoid them altogether.  So, then what can we do? I have been struggling with some of this in my life and been in need of some guidance.  Here's some tips I'm trying to build on in myself.

1) Belong to God.  As followers of Jesus, we are told that we are God's children.  We are always welcome and wanted by Him.  Just as a mother will always open her arms to a heartbroken child, God longs to help us with our trouble.  That means praying more, reading the Word more, and bearing those wounds to Him for healing.

2) Count it Joy!  This painful rejection or reality check will lead to amazing growth if you will allow it.  The hardest criticism to hear is likely to motivate you to the biggest change.  It doesn't feel good in the process, but it just might be the best thing that ever happened to you.

3) Be a Home for Others.

My grandparents lived in a small house my grandfather built long before my mother was born.  They lived their until their deaths when I was a teenager.  Despite the size, they had a reputation for always having room for one more around the table.  Granny was an amazing cook - and why wouldn't she be?  She made three full meals a day for my Papa, carpenter and gardener extraordinaire for probably their entire married life.  With 6 kids, 17 grandchildren, many great-grandchildren, and leading the local church, their door was always open at meal time - or any other time really.  You could belong there - there was never any question.  I have longed to be called in for supper out that screen door and feel the safety and assurance of love and longevity more and more the older I get.  You wouldn't be overlooked or left out and certainly could grab a plate.

Theirs' is an example of hospitality, but more than that.  While they were alive, it was an example of consistency and commitment.  Throughout many hardships and changes, they were still there welcoming you to dinner if you were in town.  I long for that kind of commitment in my relationships, but then do I demonstrate that kind of consistency in their life?  Having 3 kids has slowed me down in that department and I'm feeling the fallout of it.  Remembering the invitations or happy birthdays or genuine chats about how life is can change the course of a heart's pain.

Finally, we are not perfect people and I know that we will cause each other pain.  Still, I desire to be a safe place and like a lighthouse on the shore, a welcome home for anyone in need.  If you've ever felt alone and unimportant, you can understand how powerful just one person can be in your life.  Is this something you struggle with in your life? Would you share it with me so that I could pray for you?  This is my theme right now and I would love to include you!