Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Exhaustion

How do you deal with mental exhaustion? What about that double whammy of mental AND physical exhaustion?

I'm suffering from some serious mental burn out. I don't even find joy in photography right now....and that's saying a lot. I love my clients, and I'm thrilled with how their photos turn out. But I'm just...so...tired all the time.

I left for the mountains on May 15th. I had several sessions scheduled for the 19th and 20th. It rained every day, so all but 3 sessions were rescheduled. I'm very thankful to God those three photo sessions were able to be done, and they turned out so well. I was home for less than 48 hours when I had to repack and head out another 6 hours away for a medical appointment. The trip was...hard. the appointment was good, but the overall trip was rough. Now I've been home just over 24 hours, and I'm just wore out!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Home School Navigator REVIEW

Home School Navigator
I was so excited to get a chance to review a 1-year subscription to Home School Navigator, complete with an interactive notebook to help make this course fantastic! 
Home School Navigator
Home School Navigator is your one stop shop for reading, language arts, grammar, writing, and vocabulary. Everything is planned and organized for your convenience. Ashley and Beth (the originators) have really put out a great product here that is easy to use, and covers multiple areas. 
Homeschool Navigator includes read alouds, worksheets, games, and more. 
Our Experience
I was really excited to get started with this. Mr. B and reading aren't exactly friends. He LOVES being read to, and he doesn't mind reading homework. He LOVES reading what he wants to read, but not necessarily what I want him to read. Thus the love/hate relationship. I'm always after a good reading curriculum that will work for him, and that also targets language arts skills, too.

I am always a little skeptical when it comes to anything reading, but I had no reason to be with Home School Navigator. We got to experience and try out a few different levels, and I ultimately chose the BLUE Level as his "official" level. 
So we started on the first level of the level Blue. The read aloud book is Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. Ok...so now you're probably thinking the same thought I had. WHAT?! That's WAY below his level! And you're right, it is. That's when I found out it is intentional. The reading level IS lower (about a 4th grade level) so that the student can focus on the concept, and not the reading. THIS IS PERFECT FOR MR. B! He doesn't have to worry about the story so much as what is being taught by the story-such as compare/contrast as this particular section was teaching. On top of the that, this story is just right down funny! I knew we had a winner when he had hit replay for the 4th time, and the giggles never stopped. 

There are also what I like to call "teaching videos" that really benefit Mr. B because he is more apt to pay attention to someone else, rather than me, at times. 


The teacher's guides are so handy! Everything is planned out by the week and day. I like to print a month at a time, and go from there. It's nice to just check things off, and know I have that to keep in our records for his end of the year portfolio review. 



I also give the daily print off to Mr. B. This way he has a visual of what he has to do, and he can easily mark through what he has completed. He doesn't even have to ask what to do first, because they are numbered for him already. This is great for kids on the spectrum who need that little nudge to know what to do, and when. 

The printable worksheets are really great. I'm not going to show a screen snip of everything included for one week, but these should give you a pretty good idea. This is a full on curriculum, and really everything you need for the whole year. 




The font is easy to read, and I like that there's not a lot of distractions. I also like how each page features the level number (B 1.1.5 for example) so you  know what worksheet goes with what day/week! 


There are books that go along with this. We are reading "Holes" right now. But the books are easily found at the library if you don't already have them. 

Overall, I can't be happier! Mr. B will willingly do his reading work, I can get a few things done around the house since I don't have to hover over top of him and keep him on task, and he really enjoys it, too. He's learning a lot! I HIGHLY recommend this to others! 


Does Home School Navigator 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?

You can work at your own pace, however the plan is a 9 month school year. You are bound by your subscription time limits. You can skip ahead, or repeat, as needed.   

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?

There are no hidden fees, but you are responsible for acquiring the books for each part. You do not have to have the read aloud books, as those are on video for you. The books are easily found at the library. Home School Navigator does cover multiple age. Mr. B is 12, and we were working on the Blue Level.  You are locked into your level. I'm not sure how difficult it is to change levels if needed. 
 
3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

Mr. B loves it. He usually wanted to work ahead! I think this is VERY special needs friendly!

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

This would cover reading and language arts.


Please check out the Homeschool Review Crew for more reviews. 
Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

PandaParents REVIEW

Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

Not long ago, I opted to tryout a really cool early learning product by PandaParents. MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS is a really neat monthly subscription based product that teaches early learning skills in a fun way.   Now, of course Mr. B is well outside of the age range, but I wanted to see how this product would work with special needs learners, and I figured he'd still get a kick out of some of the arts and crafts projects included. For this review, we received 6-months of their subscription "courses." These are digital downloads, and the physical options are slated to be ready around December 2018.


The idea behind this is really fun. You spend about 30-mins a day, 2 or 3 days a week, reading to your child and working through a corresponding workbook.



I love the concept, especially for special needs learners. The books are short, and easy to read, with a lot of colors and bold letters. For this review, I've focused on "Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound," and the workbook that goes with it. 


This book is really cute as it details the life of a skunk. Your child will be learning much more than a fictional tail and the letter "S." Your child will also learn about modes of transportation like the above Sailboat, and seaons/weather like "Snow." 

What really strikes me is how the Letter S is highlighted red each time it begins a word. This is great for visual learners! It really works well to reemphasize the letter. 



The student workbook is a lot of fun. It is full of fun, educational activities. There's simple spelling, matching, coloring, and handwriting practice. A lot of the sheets would be GREAT to print out on sticker paper! 



I love activities like this one above. It's a great way to work on reading comprehension skills, as well as to see how much of the story your child retains. 



Mr. B did enjoy some of the coloring activities, and activities like the maze below. Each activity is focused on the letter your child is learning at that time. 



Overall: 

Overall, I think this would be a great addition for your early learners. The books are cute, with a fun story, and the workbooks are a lot of fun, too. Special needs learners will appreciate the added repetition, and the fun but challenging game like activities. 


Does PandaParents 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?

You download the books (or get the physical copies in December...) and you can work at your own pace.  

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?

There are no hidden fees. This is a physical/digital product that does require a subscription fee. This is for early learners. I would suggest sticker paper for some of the printing. I think it would make this a lot more fun, and a lot easier, too. 
 
3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

This is varied enough for ADHD with fun games and such. I do not think it boring at all, and you can set the right timing for your family.  The suggestion is 30mins a day, 2 or 3 days a week. That includes the reading aspect. So it's not a time intensive product, at all.

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

You could use the books to target specific topics as they come up, but this is mainly a reading/language arts course.





Please check out The Homeschool Review Crew for more reviews!
Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Kids Email REVIEW

Kids Email
We've been using Kids Email for a year now, and LOVE IT! Mr. B has been an avid fan of the Kids Email Safe Email for Kids since our first review, and he uses it all the time! For this review, our subscription was renewed for another 12 months.


Our Experience


When we first got started with Kids Email last year, Mr. B just casually used it playing around. Over the last year, he has used it for communication to a greater extent. Kids Email has been a great tool for him to talk with his biological father. His dad is not the type to call, or message much directly, and with his work hours, it is sometimes difficult for the two of them to find a good time to talk. By using Kids Email, Mr. B has been able to email his dad anytime he wants, and in turn his dad has been able to email him. The two will often have a lasting conversation over the course of several days, compared to a phone call that may last a few minutes. I have found it is also a great tool for Mr. B to use to tell his dad what he wants or needs on his own, instead of me playing the middle man.

Mr. B also uses Kids Email when he is angry or frustrated with anything and anyone, especially when he is in trouble and finding it difficult to find words. I have seen him use it when he has been upset with his dad, or myself. He has also used it to further explain why he has done something against the rules, and I have used it to better explain things when he is having a difficult time with oral communication.

I also use his Kids Email address to email his daily assignments, so that he can see what needs to be done each day. This provides a great checklist so that he can feel more in charge of his school day. 

Features



Kids Email has a lot of great features that makes it unique. You, as the parent, have full control of the email. I get a notification in my own email every time he sends an email, and everything he receives one. I can see the full message, both ways. Only those who are approved senders can email him, and any new senders go through me, first. I can set specific time restrictions, which comes in VERY handy when a certain Mr. B would rather spend hours emailing rather than doing other things. You can also restrict them for specific dates (Ground Child) has a means of discipline. 



Overall

Overall, we are just as happy today with our Kids Email account as we were last year. I will continue to subscribe for as long as I can, and find it to be a GREAT tool to help with Mr. B's overall communication, language arts and writing skills, and social functioning. I am very pleased with the security features in place, and I really appreciate the forethought that has been put in place in terms of approving senders, getting copies of emails, and time/day restrictions. I highly recommend this to others! 








Kids Email
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Safe Email for Kids {Kids Email Reviews}
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Friday, May 11, 2018

Kayla Jarmon Books REVIEW

Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog by Kayla Jarmon
I just finished up checking out Kayla Jarmon's books, and they are SO GOOD! We were blessed to receive all three books. These are great for parents to read to their kids, even older kids like Mr. B.


Don't Forget Me: This is the first book in a discussion book series. This book starts out with a baby in the womb. The baby has beautiful conversations with God, and each time God tells the baby to not forget Him. God explains to the baby about his mommy and daddy, and the new experiences he will have, etc. It's truly a heartwarming and touching book. We loved it, and it spurred on many discussions here with Mr. B asking a lot of questions about forgetting God, and how he can be better about remembering God at all times.






The artwork is not overdone at all. It has a soft beauty that really pairs well with the soft words of the book. The colors and everything mesh very well, and it all works together nicely. I also like the font. It's not really a true handwriting font, but it's not a text font either. It's easy to read, and matches the feel of the artwork. I also appreciate the scripture references (which you'll find in the beginning of the book, as well.) 


A Boy and His Dog: This is really cute story about a day in the life of, you guessed it, a boy and his dog. This book showcases the special bond boys share with their dogs. Honestly, I never really thought about it much until reading this book. Mr. B has 4 dogs, and they are his best friends, especially the smallest one named Brutus. Brutus is 100 pound dog in a 9 pound body. He's a miniature dachshund, and Mr. B's best friend. Brutus goes on vacation with us, he watches TV with Mr. B, and right now he's upstairs asleep with Mr. B, all tucked up under the blanket. I feel like the illustrated must have followed them around for a day, and used them as inspiration for this book. Mr. B got a good chuckle out of this story, and also saw the parallels between them and the story.




Dying is Part of This World: This book helps parents talk to kids about death. Death is all around us, and all of us will succumb to it one day. I'll admit, it's a very scary thought for me. I don't like thinking about it. I've witnessed it a lot in my family, from a very young age, losing family members and friends over the years. It's a hard topic for me, but this book really is good with the topic. It starts with a child being picked up from their papa's. The mom notices her child seems very sad, and asks why. The child said she started thinking about what it would be like if her mom died, and it made her very sad. The book is a short chapter book that asks discussion provoking questions at the end of each chapter. Mr. B and I have read this together, and we have discussed a lot of things. To be honest, Brayden is STILL asking a lot of questions about Heaven. He's still at that stage where he wants there to be video games (haha) but the discussion sparked by this book have been very good. I'm glad we read this because it's not a topic I would have been able to handle easily on my own. 




Overall

Overall, I really recommend these books. They are thought provoking, heartfelt, and wonderful. Don't Forget Me is even good for the adults, in my opinion, because I know it really touched me. A Boy and His Dog is just a fun, cute read that reminds us of the special bond between a boy and his dog. Dying is Part of This World is a great tool to use for that tough conversation, that has sparked hours of discussion between Mr. B and myself. I am so very thankful we had a chance to review these wonderful books! There will also be audio versions coming out soon, and I really look forward to listening to those! 


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Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews}
Discussion Book Series and A Boy and His Dog {Kayla Jarmon Reviews}
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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wedding Wednesday



Who'd ever think that I walked all of this stuff across the street to the county courthouse lawn?! The key is to always make use of what you have available. Think about ways to make what you have awesome!

Reading Kingdom ASD Reading REVIEW

ASD Reading
We have recently been able to review an innovative online reading program designed to help autistic students learn to read and write. ASD Reading is ideal for children aged 4-15 to teach them to read and write to a 3rd grade level (750 Lexile) with the use of various modifications and extras added in to the neurotypical program of Reading Kingdom
ASD Reading
The program is easy to set up, and easy to log in. I really like that aspect. Mr. B has a reading level much greater than a Lexile 750, but I really wanted to review this program to see if there were any benefits for him, and so I could bring it to my readers who I know have children who are struggling to read or write, and who are on the spectrum. 
The idea is to use this program at least 4 days a week, 1-2 sessions a day, for maximum benefit. It is not recommended to over exert the use of the program, otherwise the child may not retain what they need to retain. If the parent needs to provide elbow support for the typing portions, that's totally OK and even encouraged.

You can choose to take a placement exam. I asked Mr. B to miss a few on the exam so that he could start out on a lower level. I also discovered it is very easy to change the level, if you need to do so. Mr. B started out on a level 1, but that wasn't nearly challenging enough for him.

The program features a LOT of repeated sounds and words. For example, your child will spend all of their time in one book learning the words swim and swims. They will do a variety of activities such as typing the words, choosing the words, and even clicking on words to form a sentence using one of these words. This is really great since many children on the spectrum have difficulty distinguishing like sounds. Swims and Swim could sound the same to them, or even look the same if attention to detail is an issue. These are not issues for Mr. B any longer, but at the time they were this would have been GREAT to have had in our arsenal! 
 

Through the lessons, your child will also learn language arts skills as well as keyboarding skills. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of the keyboarding skills, and how much that really helped Mr. B! 


It's also very easy for Mr. B to navigate on his own. I help him log in, and then I'm able to get a few other things finished while he works on this. This would be great for students who are developing their task completion without redirection skills. It's pretty straight forward. And once you are in your lesson session, there's no other deviations to be made. 

Overall, this is a really great tool for kids on the spectrum. Mr. B felt some of the graphics and animations were "babyish," but that's just him. Others may not feel the same, and may really like them. Like I said before, he's quite a bit above this academically and I really didn't realize how much so until he started using it. He can read above a 3rd grade level, but for those who are still struggling this will be great. I can see how this would have really been a huge help just a few years ago! Overall, I'd highly recommend this to others who have autistic children in search of an online reading program!

If your child is neurotypical, don't forget to check out Reading Kingdom!

Reading Kingdom
Reading Kingdom
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Learn to Read with Reading Kingdom OR ASD Reading {Reviews}
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