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.





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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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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Weigl Publishers REVIEW

Weigl Publishers
Y'all, I had never heard of Weigl Publishers before this review, but wow I'm so glad I have now! They have some really great books, and they have made them interactive, too! There's so much fun, and learning here that I just don't even know where to start! 
Weigl Publishers Media Enhanced Books
Ok, first off...we received a digital download AND "extras" access to:

Glaciers from the series "Earth's Water."

A Lion's World from the "EyeDiscover" series.

There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant, a fiction title.
They have a great online Catalog where you can see what all they have to offer! 
Glaciers

Glaciers Earths Water

We recently went to the zoo, and Mr. B was enthralled with the photos from years ago vs. today concerning Glaciers. The zoo we went to has a HUGE exhibit for all things glaciers, so I  knew this book and the digital content would be a GREAT study for him right now. 
Mr. B loved reading about the Glaciers, their locations, and their sizes. He also compared these with the ones he learned about at the zoo-some being the same ones! 



After learning about Glacier eskers, he used sand and water to make his own in his sandbox outside.

In addition to the book, glaciers also comes with access to a vast assortment of Lighbox supplementary resources, including videos. The image below shows the goodies including on Lightbox. You get a code with each book, and this code opens up all of the content. You'll also be asked for further verification, so have the book handy when you login to Lightbox!


We started with the videos. Mr. B LOVED them...ok, so did I! I sat and watched with him, and you feel as if you are on side with the scientists measuring and documenting the glaciers. 



There are a lot of other activities, as well, such as printable worksheets. 


And a MASSIVE Follett Collection.


Even though we have been working on this for a while now, we've not yet finished with everything concerning glaciers! There's a lot here. 

Overall, We both really like this study on glaciers. The book is full of factual data, beautiful photos, and a lot of information. The online content is fun, engaging, and there's just a lot of it from which to choose. The intended grade range is grade 3-6, but I could see older students really benefiting from this, as well. 

A Lion's World 

A Lions World

This book is all about lions. We went straight for the EyeDiscover portion for this, and it starts off with home screen that features a beautiful lion. I want to point out that this screen is not just a still photo, but a video. It's very book like, in that there's captions on the screen to read along, but at the same time it's sort of like the lion is talking to your child, too. The words are easy and simple, and it's great for grades K-2, even pre-K could use this. The interactive part is made of videos. So each "page" is a video, with the words. It's really cool!



Then the book is written from the view of the lion, and it tells all about what lions are, their lives, etc. I  love the photos. Even though Mr. B is 12, he still enjoyed this. It's beneath his level, but he really liked looking at the photos, and watching the videos. 


Overall, this is a really fun way for kids to learn about lions, and a really unique twist on the interactive read-aloud book! 

There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant

There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant

This is just flat out fun! This is very much of the style of one led to another led to another led to another, etc. It's so much fun to just read outloud that we have read it over and over again, and we always end up in a fit of giggles! A Cowpoke swallows an ant that stings his belly, and that's sets him off on a quest of swallowing things to take care of what he swallowed before so that he can feel better. It's hilarious! 



This book uses the AV2 software to read to your child, or you child can flip through the book and read on his/her own. This is really for the younger kids, but I gotta tell ya...we just loved it! 

Overall, we have really enjoyed this one! I thought this would be way too "childish" for my almost teen, but he thought it was so funny! We both laughed and laughed, and he ended up memorizing parts of it! 



Weigl Publishers offer a lot more than these, and I'd love to check out a few more. They have a nice online catalog that shows their offerings, so please check that out, too. If the others are anything like these three, then I know you won't be disappointed! 

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Multimedia Digital Books {Weigl Publishers Reviews}
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