Friday, November 17, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Can you believe it is nearly Thanksgiving already?! It seems as if 2017 zipped by so fast. I can't believe it is already Christmas gift time! Our tree is up, we're sorting ornaments, and planning dinners. CRAZY, I tell ya! CRAZY! 

Here are a few things topping our Christmas Wish List this year! 

The Pencil Grip tends to always top my list. They have a number of great gifts, and I'll also be featuring them in my Special Needs Gift Guide, as well. 

Mr. B LOVES KwikStix!  These sticks are made up of solid tempera paint, and take just 90 seconds to dry. Mr. B loves them! He likes to sling paint brushes, so I try to avoid paint-but he loves to paint. KwikStix is the best of both worlds! He can paint, and I have no mess to clean up. They come in a variety of colors including metallic and neon. You can also get ThinStix which are just like KwikStix, only thinner! 

Loopeez is a fun fidget toy. Each ring is connected to the other by the blue and green pivots. You can twist them around, and they never bump or get stuck. I prefer this to any fidget spinner as they are less distracting, and help keep Mr. B focused. These would make a GREAT stocking stuffer!

Gyrobi is another great stocking stuffer! These little spinners feature various rings that spin independently of one another. Again, these are much less distracting than a fidget spinner, and accomplish the intended purpose of greater focus and calm. Ours is actually square, and Mr. B takes it everywhere!

2.) Books

I am always a huge fan of books for Christmas. We love to wrap up a book a night for a nice bedtime story each night. Rick Warren's Children books are a great addition to this. I'm all for Christmas themed books in December, but a book that can be read all the time is always a great choice! 

This little mini sized robot packs a punch for such a small size. With the ability to attach Legos, and Lego like building blocks, your child will have a blast learning how to code with this little guy! 

4.) DVDs

I can never go wrong by wrapping up some DVDs and putting them under the tree. M and Mr. B both love getting DVDs of their favorite shows and movies. 

 Mr. B will be opening Caillou's Holiday Movie, Thomas Edison's Secret Lab, and Sonic Christmas Blast! Each of these DVDs provide endless entertainment.

Caillou's Holiday Movie has always been a favorite of his. I love the lesson of Christmas around the world featured in the film!

Thomas Edison's Secret Lab feature our favorite scientist hard at work!

Join Sonic and his friends in Holiday themed adventure in Sonic Christmas Blast! Everything you've come to expect from a great Sonic the Hedgehog DVD!

Princess J is going to be enjoying The Little Prince The Planet of Gargand, Doozers Giant Gingerbread House, and Yo Gabba Gabba LIVE Holiday Show! I know she's going to be THRILLED! 
 These DVDs are great for kids, especially the younger crowd. She loves to sing along to the shows, and I love the moral and educational lessons she's being taught.

Like I said, You can never go wrong with a good DVD!

5.) Blocks

Blocks...can you ever go wrong? Mr. B has always loved these, and it's time for some new ones. Melissa and Doug brand have stood up to years of abuse, so that's what we're going with again. I did not provide a link since you can find them various places, and at various costs. Rumor has it AC Moore Stores will be having Melissa and Doug on sale for Black Friday, but of course that could change between now and then. 

6.) STEM Activities

From build your own robots and coding computers, to microscopes and circuit boards, STEM activities are always a huge hit with Mr. B. I love gifts that have an educational component to them, and STEM "toys" certainly has that factor! 

Other things on the list:

Of course we have our long standing wish list items of:

Matchbox/Hot wheels cars
Large pads of paper
Craft supplies
Car sets
MicroCharger car sets (SUPER HARD TO FIND)
Stuffed Animals

Mr. B has also asked for some odd things like a caliper to measure width and a contractor's calculator. 

What's on your Christmas list this year?  Leave a comment here or on the blog, and I'll randomly choose one person to win a 6pk of KwikStix from The Pencil Grip, Inc! 

You're gonna love Rick Warren's Children's Books!

I love Christmas time! And one thing I like to do is have a selection of books wrapped for Mr. B to choose from each night. He opens the book, and then we read it together as a bedtime story. He is getting older now, but he still loves to cuddle up with mommy and let me read him a bedtime story. These are definitely memories I will cherish forever.

 Rick Warren has two books out that are just for this very scenario! 

God’s Big Plans for Me Storybook Bible illustrates the 40 foundational principles written in the #1 New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life by Pastor Rick Warren. With child-friendly language, engaging illustrations, and a chronological approach, Pastor Warren introduces each Bible story with a theme that aligns with one of his foundational principles. He wraps up the stories with a closing thought targeted to early readers. The colorful illustrations and narrative tone bring these beloved Bible stories to life for readers young and old. God’s Big Plans for Me Storybook Bible has foil decoration on the cover.

About God’s Great Love for You:
God’s Great Love for You, written by #1 New York Times bestselling author and respected pastor Rick Warren, takes children on a whimsical and heartfelt journey that lets them know God’s love is with them wherever they go. With breathtaking illustrations by Chris Saunders, the simple yet poignant text comes alive as a child journeys to places far and near and discovers God’s great love is perfect, and everywhere, and will never end.

As you can see, both of these books are great for kids. They are perfect for read aloud, and bedtime stories. They feature lovely illustrations, and will help you to create cherished memories for years to come! And if you are like us, and like to have a stack of books for each night of the Christmas Season then I highly recommend either of these! 

This is a sponsored post which means I received product in exchange for my honest opinion. I wasn't required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sound for Life LTD {{{REVIEW}}}

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD
Sound for Life LTD has a really great and unique product called Forbrain. Last year, I brought you a review of how Forbrain has helped Mr. B. This year, I want to talk about how Forbrain has continued to help Mr. B, but also how it has helped Princess J who is now old enough to use this. 
A little background is both kids have autism. Mr. B's flavor of autism has him being EXTREMELY verbal, but he always had issues pronouncing some words, especially more complicated words like escalator. He also has issues in reading where he will either add in words, change words, or take out words. But as far as oral communication, he has been speaking in full sentences since he was about 3.5. Princess J, on the other hand, will turn 5 in just 3 months and she has yet to say a sentence on her own. 
Forbrain Sound for Life LTD
I am a firm believer in echolalia as a tool to help otherwise non-verbal children with autism to build a bag of tools for their own vocabulary one day. I think it is a great trait for an autistic child to have, and parents and therapist can truly use it to their benefit to help the child learn to communicate effectively. Both Mr. B and Princess J have turned to echolalia as a means of communication and entertainment, and this is great for Forbrain! 
When they repeat words and phrases, even in a delayed manner like these two kids have always done, Forbrain hones in on specific sounds, and downplays ambient sounds with the dynamic filter, to produce a clearer sound than air conduction alone. And by use of bone conduction, the signals get sent to the brain much faster than by air conduction, so they hear themselves in real time, too.

Forbrain shouldn't be worn for indefinite periods of time. Mr. B is older, so I allow him to wear his twice a day for 20 minutes, and a 3rd for about 10 minutes. He's 12. Princess J is only 4.5. She's at the minimum age for use, so she uses it much less right now. I've noticed personally, I get a headache if I wear it too much. So Princess J only wears hers for about 5mins twice a day right now. That's about all she can tolerate at the moment. 

Mr B has been a Forbrain user for around 18 months now. I've noticed a HUGE improvement in his overall enunciation, memory, and focus. He self corrects more now as compared to before using Forbrain, and the benefits we saw early on have only been amplified (see what I did there???) Words he had a hard time saying before, like Finger or Escalator, are now easily said because he would repeat them while wearing Forbrain to hear what his mistakes were. Now, I'm wanting him to improve his overall reading. He's bad to want to rush through it so he adds words, changes words, or skips over them. He may say ask instead of as, or out instead of on. Something small, but something that can really change the whole meaning of what he's reading. I have him read out loud while wearing Forbrain, and I have noticed a lot less mistakes in reading as a result.

Princess J is largely non verbal. BUT, she does have echolalia beahviors. She will repeat phrases she hears in pre-school, or just at home, frequently. If she wants to say no, she will say something like, "No Samuel!" Because she hears the teacher tell a little boy no a lot in her school. For months, when she didn't want to leave her brother, she would say, "No B, stop pushing me!" Mr. B never pushed her. She heard me tell him to stop pushing against my hand when I was applying a medicine patch to his back. And she associated that with him. She will repeat songs she hears, and phrases from TV shows. While wearing Forbrain, she repeats these and hears herself. This has caused a large increase in her verbal sounds. She wants to hear herself more and more, so she is repeating more and more. This is actually great because she's starting to do it on command, too. 

Long term use of Forbrain has proven to be quite beneficial for Mr. B. I have noticed a huge improvement in overall speech and enunciation. His reading skills have improved, his overall focus is better, and I've even noticed less sensory seeking behavior.
Princess J has become more vocal during the review period, and she has become more outgoing and less reserved and held back. I expect to see the same benefits, and an increase in purposeful speech from her with long term use. 
Overall, Forbrain has been great for these two. I think it would be a great tool for apraxia drills and even social communication therapy. It even has applications for learning disabilities, specifically reading difficulties. 

Please click the banner below to read more reviews by the Homeschool Review Crew. 
Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}
Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Innovators Tribe REVIEW

Innovators Tribe
Recently, we received a 2-year subscription to Thinking Like an Engineer by Innovators Tribe. This is a really fun, and hands on program that gets your student on the road to engineering. This online course is self-paced and designed for kids in 6-12 grade. This program features self paced online video segments, hands on activities, design software, and even a journal you can print and keep for records. 
Innovators Tribe What You Get
How did we use this?
I first spent a few days going over everything myself so I could be familiar if a question came up. The course layout is great. It's easy to use, and any reader of my blog knows how much I like a "billboard obvious" login.

The log in for this is at the top. It's easy to find, and that's great for kids like Mr. B! 

The course has a syllabus and a running list down the side. What is great about this is that it features the duration for each portion. Mr. B doesn't have to ask me "How long do I need to do this?" or "How long will this take?" He can easily look to this side and see that Lesson 3 on clean water is going to take 15 minutes. 

 After I became familiar with the layout, and basics, it was time for Mr. B to get started. I knew he would like the program, but I grossly underestimated the degree at which he likes it. He didn't want to stop! When he finally got to the first activity, and realized we had 0 masking tape in the house, it was clear I really had no choice but to go to the store and buy some because he wasn't going to stop trying to come up with an alternative. He really takes the course seriously, and does his best to accomplish each activity, on his own, with little to know help from me. 
Thinking Like an Engineer

Mr. B works through the lessons in order, and spends about 3 or 4 days a week on it. There have been times he's asked to repeat the Challenge Activity. I can't show all that we did, so I picked out my personal favorite which was the Lesson 3 Challenge Activity of filtering water.

 It just so happened that I didn't have what was needed to do this, and I wasn't going out at the time. So...we tried to wing it. I knew I had everything here to whip up a quick field filter, but I couldn't remember how to do it exactly. So the materials are a plastic bottle, cotton balls, moss, gravel, sand, charcoal, and some yucky, NASTY water that I gathered up from a mud hole by the road. It is full of red clay gunk, so it's all kinds of gross. I wasn't even sure it would work in this filter lol.
So basically I cut the bottle in half, stuffed the opening part with cotton, then layered on some charcoal from a Keurig Filter, sand, then some moss, then gravel, and more moss for good measure. I know moss can do something to purify water, so I wanted a double dose. Of course, hindsight tells me the sand was wet from rain and the moss was dirty. But...whatever, we tried.

I poured the water slowly because I knew Mr. B would go too quickly and make a mess. did come out a bit more clear. But not enough. I'm sure if we did this through 3 or 4 more filters, it'd be a lot more clear. I'm going to try and find Alum and the other stuff needed to make the one in the Activity, but for now, this was a great way to at least showcase what it was supposed to do! 

(I'll post this pics of this as soon as my phone behaves and sends them to my email.)

Overall, This course is great. My son is learning a lot, and I feel it is well suited for the intended grades. I high recommend it! 

Does Innovators Tribe Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

The lessons are in order, and I wouldn't suggest skipping. Actually, I am not even sure if it's possible to skip since we didn't even try. These are self paced, so you can set your own schedule, pause, and take breaks. I was able to tweak the water filter activity, but that's really been the only one we've tweaked out of necessity.


2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

Our subscription for review is for two years, and good for the whole family. It is good for the intended ages of 6th to 12th grades. I'm not sure I'd attempt it with younger grades. Now, with that said, younger kids could definitely take part in some of the Challenge Activities. 
There are NO hidden fees beyond the need for certain materials for the challenge activities that we mostly had on hand. 
3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

It's not boring at all! Each video lesson is pretty short, and the duration listed. They are varied in time, but usually no more than about 15 mins. The Challenge Activities take longer, but they are fun and hands on. For example, the water filter is said to take 120 minutes, but it takes a bit to build it, and it takes a bit for the water to go through. I think it's great for ADHD. 

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

This is great for science, and each portion can tie in differently. 

Please click the banner below to check out more review from The Homeschool Review Crew! 

Thinking Like an Architect or Engineer {Innovators Tribe Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thin Stix Creativity Pack REVIEW

The Pencil Grip, Inc.

So....I love The Pencil Grip, Inc. They have consistently been one of my favorite vendors, and their products never disappoint. Mr. B is always so excited when we receive a package from them! It's like Christmas or his birthday! He rips open the packaging before I can even snap a picture of it for the blog! And that was definitely the case when the Thin Stix Creativity Pack arrived. He had the package open before I even had the camera app pulled up! 
Thin Stix Creativity Pack
The Thin Stix Creativity Pack is an amazing set of Thin Stix! You'll find 24 colors that are sure to make art time fun and exciting. My son immediately dumped them all in the living room floor, and started drawing. I can't count the number of weather maps he made HAHA! 

This is just one of his many drawings! He loves them so much, and he thinks everyone should have a set. 

What I especially like about this set is the varied color choices. You have the regular colors, but you also have a selection of neon and metallics, too. He loved drawing his own coins with the metallic colors. Thin Stix are great because they work like paint, but they function like a crayon. So there is no mess like you find with a paint brush and paint. They take about a minute or two to fully dry, so you can even blend them and "smoosh" them around in that time frame. This is great for special needs, especially sensory seekers who make like to sling the paint brush loaded with paint around like my son.

The contents of each Thin Stix lasts a good amount of time, too. And it will go on anything from wood to paper, and even plastic. I will say though, that it will easily peel off plastic. But I think that was the reason Mr. B did it in the first place lol. He also took these outside and marked on some trees, and it lasted on there through several rains. That's good if you want something that will last a bit, but be warned that these are not washable and they will stain.

A few things we have done with Thin Stix:

He made weather maps.

He drew hurricanes, hurricane prediction maps, and radar maps.

He drew artwork to correspond with his lessons for the day.

He marked on tape and put it outside on the foundation of the house and porch to indicate a fire route. 

He drew on scrap wood and placed it outside as road signs. 

He drew each planet, then hung them from the ceiling and took us on tours of the solar system.


Overall, we couldn't be happier with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack. The included colors are great for hours and hours of art and creative fun. They are a great assortment, and we never felt like there was a color missing or needed. As much as we like the assorted colors,  I think having a pack of just high use colors like black, red, blue, and maybe grey would be a great idea, too. I would definitely purchase a 3 or 4 pack of nothing but black to supplement the 24 count creativity pack! Overall, another huge hit by The Pencil Grip, Inc

Please click the banner below to visit The Homeschool Review Crew!
Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

A few other reviews of The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Pencil Grips andUltra Safe Safety Scissors

Neon and Metallic Colors

Kwik Stix 12 Pk

Thin Stix 6pk

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Magic Stories REVIEW

The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}
I had never heard of The Magic Stories by Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series until this review, so I really didn't know what to expect when the email arrived with our PDF download in it. The Magic Stories is a set of six cute stories that are on a reading level of about 3rd grade, give or take a bit.  Each story teaches a lesson, and they are just flat out fun to read. Along with each story you'll find a list of the "Naughty 40 words" which are 40 more complicated words in the story, and reading comprehension and writing exercise worksheets.
The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

Stories include:

Book 1: The Magic Hole

Book 2: The Magic Ax

Book 3: The Magic Joke

Book 4: The Magic Hot Dog

Book 5: The Magic Boots

Book 6: The Magic Box

How did we use this?

This download is great for the iPad and computer. Mr. B does VERY well with computer work, so we mainly read the stories on the computer. I printed off a couple of the worksheets, but I mainly had him write out his answers on paper for me. Some things we discussed, too.

We started with Book 1: The Magic Hole.

This story features Ping Ho and his family. They are very poor and a hole with a mind of its own causes chaos! It causes a rice to fall from a sack, money to be lost, and finally a lake to vanish! But good prevails in the end, and the Ho family takes a bad situation and turns it into a much better one than they could have imagined.
Next came Book 2: The Magic Ax

This is the story of a young boy who goes to work chopping wood with his dad. His dad is frustrated because Tom only wants to play in the forest chasing butterflies, and wandering around instead of working. On day, his dad breaks his leg. Tom has no choice but to chop wood for the family, but his first day is spent dawdling around and not working, so he doesn't even cover the bottom of the cart. He's met with a magic ax that does all of the work for him, and as guilty as he feels for taking all the credit, he allows the ax to do all the work for months while keeping it a secret. One day, the magic fails him, and he knows he has to do the work himself to provide. Soon after, the work becomes easier, and his burden lifted because he's no longer hiding this secret. 

One of my favorites is Book 3: The Magic Joke

This story is about a princess who uses a secret weapon-a Magic Joke-to end a war. Her father, the king, is not happy because he wanted to win the war and take over the enemy kingdom. He inadvertently reads the magic joke, and he's overcome with laughter so his daughter takes over ruling the country, and unites the two kingdoms with love instead of violence. 
Book 4: The Magic Hot Dog is Mr. B's Favorite. 
This story is about a boy who only wants to eat hot dogs. He loves them, and refuses to eat anything else. It is so much like Mr. B and how he will only eat certain foods, that I think that's why he loves this one. Alfred, the hot dog eating boy, spends all of his money on 10 hot dogs at the fair. He then spots a man who is eating a hot dog that never gets any smaller. Alfred takes the hot dog, and eats so much he ends up floating away!

Book 5 is The Magic Boots

This story is about 6 year old Patty who only wanted a pair of Pixy Boots like she saw in her book.  What she ends up with are not the boots she wanted, but GOBLIN BOOTS! Oh the trouble these boots cause her! She kicks her dog, runs,'s just not good. In the end, she does get her boots and all is well, once more.  

The last book is Book 6: The Magic Box. 
This is a Rum-pel-stilt-skin story where he turns gold to straw, and the masses love it! They are more than willing to hand over their gold for a few wisps of "magic" straw from a "magic" box, until a rumor causes them to go in to a panic. In the end, they discover the magic box isn't so magic after all, and Rum-pel-stilt-skin's magic days are over. 
I had Mr. B read these in order because each Naughty 40 set builds on the previous one, so I wanted to make sure he got those. Mr. B is above the age level for these books, but his writing skills are critical thinking are still very much on par with this level, so I wanted to use the whole thing. But since he is older, the reading went by very quickly and we were able to work through them all much faster than we would have had he been younger. So keep that in mind if you have an older student. These stories are baby'ish in any way, so they are suitable for an older student who needs a little more help. 
I really liked the worksheets with each story. I liked the flow chart one especially as that is a great visual for Mr. B. He liked the shorter writing assignments since they were short, and he could do them a little easier as a result. He also liked coloring the pictures on the pages I printed off for him. 

The Naughty 40 is a great list of more complicated words. We used this as a spelling refresher during the review. I would call off each word and mark whether or not he could spell it easily. The words he had more difficulty with became his spelling words. 

The flash cards were just used for fun here, but they are a nice resource to have. 

This is the flow chart style I was talking about. 

The short answer worksheets are a great way to build on comprehension and critical thinking. He didn't get so fatigued by the reading that it made this part of the assignment more difficult, so he was easily able to work through these while still  being challenged. 

Overall, I would recommend these to others! 
Be sure to check out The Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say! 
The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer